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As was pointed out by the only other reviewer of The Vanquished so far, this is one of a gazillion plots of post Civil War stories that take the southern point of view. This is a tradition going back to the Birth Of A Nation and up to and beyond Gone With The Wind. All three are based on historical novels. But the trend in that was also the usual historical interpretations of the times. That changed with the civil rights revolution.
John Payne is a local southern hero who while in Yankee prison received many letters from friends about the corrupt rule of local administrator Lyle Bettger. He returns home and goes to work for Bettger, but only to gather evidence of his corruption. Doing it that way makes him a lot of former friends in his town.
It was a big mistake to let us know from the beginning that Payne was undercover. Robbed the story of a great deal of suspense.
Bettger's part has some antecedents with Gone With The Wind in the peripheral character of Jonas Wilkerson. If you remember Wilkerson who was briefly and memorably played by Victory Jory was a slave overseer whom the O'Hara family kicked out and came back as a Yankee scalawag just like Bettger and just as vindictive and mean. Bettger, who played some of the best villains of the Fifties, has his character far more developed as it is more central to the plot.
The one who really makes this film have whatever life it does is Jan Sterling. She plays a white trash girl whom the genteel families of the area snubbed before Fort Sumter. Now she's making them pay big time. Coleen Gray is the girl who Payne left behind and fights for her man whom she never lost faith in.
The Vanquished is a competently made enough film, but hardly Gone With The Wind.
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