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This story is set on early California's wild and wicked pioneers days .
It's a particular Western with a magnificent Cornel Wilde seeking
vendetta against the killers of his loved ones and a splendid Yvonne De
Carlo in double role . This moving picture tells the story of Juan (
Cornel Wilde) a respected citizen who returns to the rancho of his old
friend Gaspar (John Qualen) , he comes and just promised marriage his
young girlfriend (Yvonne De Carlo) and settle down for a peaceful
existence . Just when they are about to marry ,comes the vengeful
Sandro (Rodolfo Acosta) and his henchmen (Lon Chaney Jr , Frank DeKova)
and murder the family . Juan has sworn revenge , detain and undercover
the gunfighters. Juan kills some of them and is pursued by deputies
(Raymond Burr and Anthony Caruso) . Meanwhile he escapes and is only
helped by the twin sister ( again Yvonne De Carlo ) . At the ending
takes place the dreaded final showdown against the thug on the snowy
outdoors and the protagonist realizes he must stand alone against
impossible odds , nobody is willing to help him .
Acceptable Western set in Old Spanish California dealing with range war and full of fights , duels , revenge and stirring drama . Ample support cast plenty of known secondary actors who lend solid support as John Qualen, Robert Warwick, Anthony Caruso, John Dierkes, Stuart Whitman, Lon Chaney Jr , Frank DeKova , many of them usual in Western genre . Although made in low budget by the producer Benedict Bogeaus and RKO , Radio Pictures Inc, is a very efficient film and pretty entertaining . The picture contains colorful cinematography by John Alton( Noir cinema's usual photographer along with Nicholas Musuraka), though is necessary an urgent remastering because the copy is granulated ; furthermore atmospheric and appropriate musical score by Louis Forbes . This quickie is finely directed by Allan Dwan , a craftsman working from the silent cinema . Dwan directed over 1400 films , including one-reels, between his arrival in the industry (circa 1909) and his final film in 1961. Among them some good Western as ¨ Restless breed¨, ¨The rivers edge¨,¨Cattle Queen of Montana¨, ¨Tenessee's partner¨, ¨Montana Belle¨ and ¨Silver Lode¨ his unqualified masterpiece. Rating : 5,5 . Passable and acceptable Western in Mexican style.
Two Yvonnes (De Carlo) are better than one. Always. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it. R.K.O. strikes gold in this dark western set somewhere in Northern California, sometime before the land was tamed by the U.S. government. The trio of Miss De Carlo (the fiery one), Cornel Wilde and Raymond Burr spend a good chunk of the running time of this movie chasing after the five desperadoes who have slaughtered one of the Yvonnes (the demure one) and her grandparents. Her son survives. Barely. In discovering the massacre at the farmhouse, Wilde's character catches a bad case of revenge and sets his sights on the perpetrators of those bad deeds. The police--Burr and Anthony Caruso--are ineffective. They always seem to show up a couple of heartbeats too late. The film does nothing to dissuade someone from uttering: "you can never find a cop when you need one." The scenery is fabulous. When Wilde marches off the lush greenery of the mountain's downslope and ascends the glacier in pursuit of the last bad guy, we know he has crossed the line into madness, He is out of control. Lawless. The ending is wrapped up in a satisfying manner. But the title (Passion) bothers me. I'm changing it to Obsession. And I'm sticking to it.
Passion is directed by Allan Dwann and collectively written by Beatrice
Dresher, Josef Leytes and Howard Estabrook. It stars Cornel Wilde,
Yvonne De Carlo, Raymond Burr, Lon Chaney Junior, Rodolfo Acosta,
Anthony Caruso and John Qualen. Music is by Louis Forbes and
cinematography by John Alton.
Early California . . .under Mexican rule. . .the timeless mountains and eternal snows looking down on the everlasting struggle of man against man.
The Dwann and Bogeaus (producer) combination once again craft a Western that breaks free of B budget restrictions to reveal a film of some entertaining substance. This is all about man's thirst for revenge as Wilde's Juan Obreon finds his family ruthlessly snuffed out by Acosta's land hungry Salvator Sandro. When the law fail to act upon a flimsy piece of evidence, Obreon decides to go after the Sandro gang himself.
Obreon is not a ghost.
Running at under 90 minutes it would have been easy for the makers to quickly get on with the revenge axis from the off, but time is afforded the Juan Obreon character so we understand why he does what he does. For the first 30 minutes the love and family contentment surrounding Obreon shines through, and with De Carlo playing dual characters (Juan's comely wife and fiery sister-in-law), there's a bit of novelty value added into the mix. We get snippets of how vile Sandro is, such as when we are introduced to him he is whipping his young son for a bit of "tough" love, and the surrounding vistas are impressive observers to the unfolding drama.
Story set and on to revenge we go as Obreon pursues the murderers of his family while himself being pursued by two lawmen (Burr and Caruso), one of which is an old friend who isn't exactly pulling out all the stops to catch the fugitive. It all leads to a final confrontation that is set in the snowy mountains where all interested parties convene at a remote log cabin. Dwann has paced it neatly and created a good amount of tension whilst also showing his expertise as a choreographer of fights.
Alton's photography is most appealing, be it the capturing of the California landscape, or his use of light and shadow for a ruin based sequence, Alton once again shows himself to be a most talented cinematographer who always added a kick to even the lowest of budgeted pictures. Cast are mostly effective, with Wilde leading the way and proving his worth as a lead man who is wronged and he shows some genuine pain in his visuality. Unfortunately the good work of the principal actors is tainted a touch by Chaney Junior once again looking out of place in a Western, with fluctuating accent as well, and Burr disappoints by never once convincing as a law man conflicted by his emotions.
With revenge at its core, and plot points involving abandoned babies and cold blooded murder, it's a strong Western that ultimately survives its flaws to become another very fine Dwann/ Bogeaus production. 7.5/10
Maybe I had been spoiled a fortnight ago by the 'surprising' excellence of Dwan's SILVER LODE (1954), or perhaps I had my mind on other things while it was playing (I had just installed my brand new DVD recorder), or it is simply that the film needed a more compelling villain than Rodolfo Acosta; the fact remains that I was underwhelmed by this first viewing of PASSION. Not that it really has a reputation to uphold or anything but, retaining the services of much of the same crew as SILVER LODE (director Dwan, producer Benedict Bogeaus, cinematographer John Alton, composer Louis Forbes, art director Van Nest Polglase, bit-part actors Stuart Whitman and Robert Warwick, etc.), one can't help but expect similarly satisfying results. At least, the cast is quite good: Cornel Wilde, Yvonne De Carlo (in a dual role as Wilde's ladylike wife and her tomboyish twin sister!), Raymond Burr (as the Sheriff), Lon Chaney Jr. (as a drunken brute with a really loud cackle), John Qualen (as De Carlo's grandfather) and Anthony Caruso (as Burr's suspicious colleague). The film, set in Old California, follows a typical revenge story pattern which, unfortunately, seems not to have inspired Dwan much until the snowbound (or rather studio-bound) finale: in fact, Wilde does most of the killings barring that of Chaney and Acosta offscreen! Ultimately, PASSION emerges as a modestly pleasing and colorful diversion that falls short of achieving its potential especially when judging the end result against similar contemporary Western fare about obsessive odysseys of revenge like Fritz Lang's RANCHO NOTORIOUS (1952) and Henry King's THE BRAVADOS (1958).
Cornel Wilde's role in Passion is something that Tyrone Power might
have done or Cornel himself might have done at 20th Century Fox when
they were both there. Of course had it been done at Fox, Darryl Zanuck
would have had a better plotted story than RKO did.
Wilde is a vaquero who has impregnated Yvonne DeCarlo and she's got a surprise for him when he returns from a roundup. She's got a bundle of joy for him and they're not married. But Wilde is going to do right by her.
Sad to say though DeCarlo's family is involved in a range feud with a local Don who sends riders to burn out who he considers squatters. They kill DeCarlo and her grandfather John Qualen.
They don't get DeCarlo's twin sister, also played by DeCarlo. She rides for Wilde and he gets there too late. But like Gregory Peck in The Bravados and Steve McQueen in Nevada Smith, Wilde's a man with a mission.
For reasons I don't understand the local law who is played by Raymond Burr won't arrest Lon Chaney, Jr. after she identifies his voice as one of the riders. It's a pretty lame excuse for Burr not doing his duty. Of course Wilde's duty is clear.
Later on Burr does in fact catch up with Wilde, but allows him to escape and then he tracks Wilde as Wilde tracks the bad guys. Again his reasons are rather lame.
Wilde tracks the last of the bandits to the snow clad Sierra Mountains and the cinematography here is pretty good. RKO spent a bit more here than they normally do.
There's a lot of similarity to Wilde's dashing Californio to Tyrone Power's The Mark of Zorro. Wilde is good, but he should have had a better story.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Made in the glory days of Technicolor, "Passion" is instantly notable for its beautiful cinematography, but it tells a familiar, one-track-minded revenge tale: they killed the main lead's family, so he proceeds to kill the killers one by one (while being pursued by the law himself). There is not much more to the story than that, which makes for a pretty one-note story for an 80-minute film. What gives the film some distinction is Yvonne De Carlo's tomboyish (though clearly sidelined) character, and the snowy mountains where the last part of the action takes place - a rather striking change of scenery. **1/2 out of 4.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although this centres around the nondescript rendering of a standby
genre plot - rancher seeks vengeance on those responsible for the
massacre of his family - this at least turns out to have the succinct
punch of economic efficiency that was the hallmark of many an RKO
western. There's nothing much to speak of in terms of both script and
acting - everyone is far too solemn, and disappointingly this does not
exclude the quality thespian triumvirate of De Carlo, Burr and Chaney
The real star is the colour photography (a panchromatic change of pace from a veteran cinematographer of many b/w 40s noirs) and the scenery within it; mise-en-scene courtesy of Fred-n-Ginger art deco specialist Van Nest Polglase. Both are sufficient to sustain one's interest through to the 'revenge is just as immoral as murder' conclusion.
It's exactly the sort of film that transcends Dwan's more usual 'Cattle Queen Of Montana' type dross to attract the attention of those predisposed to critical revisionism of the B-western after a sufficient passage of time, which is why I'm all the more surprised at the lack of previous user comments.
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