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Seeing "Riding Shotgun" again after half a century is a welcome reminder of
the peak that the western film of the fifties achieved.
Director De Toth, who actually had ranch experience despite his Hungarian origins,obviously took great satisfaction in finding such a variety of effective angles and pieces of western imagery to present what is a well constructed story. When our weathered hero has to shoot out the candle in Fritz Feld's "dirty little cantina" it not only provides a chance for master cameramen Bert Glennon ("Stagecoach") to do an effective light change but it also gives us a couple of reels of the disturbing image of the blackened door-way that no one in the town is game to enter, not sure if Randy is dead or not.
The film making is better than most of the bigger pictures could muster.
The Warner western street re-dressed. Interesting cast - Joe Sawer in a non comedy role, punching it out with Scott, Charlie Bronson getting started, Millican in his best part - are those Frank Ferguson, Cesare Gravina and Bob Steele in uncredited walk-ons?
Pretension free, work like the Scott-De Toth series made going to the movies a rewarding, addictive habit.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Riding Shotgun" is another in the Randolph Scott series of westerns
released by Warner Brothers in the 1950s.
This one is another variation of the High Noon theme of one man left alone against the villains without the support of the town. Larry DeLong (Scott) has been searching for Dan Maraday (James Millican) who murdered his sister and nephew during a stagecoach hold up. He has been riding shotgun for various stage lines with the hope that way he will finally meet up with his nemesis.
Maraday's gang, led by Pinto (Charles Bronson) captures DeLong and leaves him to die in the hot sun. They then rob and shoot up the local stagecoach on which Larry was supposed to be the shotgun guard. By sending the coach into town shot up, Maraday hopes to draw the sheriff and his posse out of town so that they can ride in and loot the casino. But DeLong escapes and rides into town to warn the townspeople.
The town believes that Larry is one of the gang because he was seen riding away with a member of the gang. Led by stagecoach owner Tom Biggert (Joe Sawyer), the town turns against Larry and corners him in a dingy saloon owned by Fritz (Fritz Feld). Deputy sheriff Tub Murphy (Wayne Morris) returns from the posse with orders to hold DeLong. Unfortunately he is ineffective and unable to arrest DeLong. The townspeople then decide to try to smoke him out.
Meanwhile Maraday and his gang ride into town during the commotion. DeLong manages to escape and confront the gang.
Randolph Scott basically played the same character in all of his 50s westerns, the stern faced William S. Hart type of hero. He always made them believable. Wayne Morris had starred in his own series prior to this but is essentially wasted here as the ever hungry, over cautious, overweight deputy. Joan Weldon as the heroine also has little to contribute. James Millican had appeared in several Scott westerns before his untimely death in 1956. Charles Bronson (still using his real name of Buchinsky) has a meaty role as the chief henchman. Veteran "head waiter" Fritz Feld gets a welcome change of pace as the slovenly Fritz.
Some other recognizable faces include Paul Picerni as the shotgun guard who dies in Scott's place, Howard Morris as a psychopathic "man with the rope" and if you look closely you might spot western veterans Bud Osborne, Buddy Roosevelt and Dub Taylor in various townsfolk.
Another good entry in the the Randolph Scott series.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I just watched Riding Shotgun, which rounds out a Warner Bros Triple
Feature DVD with two other Randolph Scott westerns of the 1950s.
Despite the title, Randolph Scott rides shotgun for only the few
opening minutes of the film, before falling for a ruse to lure him away
from the stagecoach. The stagecoach, which is robbed and shot up, is
itself another ruse to lure the sheriff and the bulk of the gun-handy
menfolk away from town in a posse following a phony trail. Randolph
Scott escapes the revenge-fueled fate a young (and clearly on a
trajectory to stardom) Charles Bronson set for him and comes into town
to warn the sheriff about the gang's plan.
But upon arriving Scott finds the town has turned on him, suspecting him of being in cahoots with the stage robbers. Here is where the film's real story begins, and while certainly taking a few pages from the High Noon playbook, Riding Shotgun has its own unique twist on that tale. Here Scott is not alone in standing up to the town. Wayne Morris, as Deputy Tub, is the real voice of reason who keeps the rabble from getting too roused and turning to vigilante justice against an innocent man.
Wayne Morris is always a welcome name to see in any movie's opening credits, even if he was not used to his fullest potential here. Morris' Deputy Tub reminded me a lot of Alan Hale, Jr. and I wondered if the Skipper wouldn't have been better cast in the role (he had appeared with Scott in the previous year's Man Behind The Gun).
While it would be easy to dismiss Tub as being ineffective and derelict in his duty, there is a rationale and a deliberateness behind his actions. Tub actually de-escalates the tension by stepping away from the situation and indulging in lunch and later some pie and coffee. His easy dismissal of the trigger-happy Deputy Ross as getting what was coming to him shows Tub's a seasoned westerner and far from being a coward. It took experience and intelligence to approach the cornered Scott with diplomacy and a deal instead of rushing into the cantina with his guns blazing, like the greenhorn hot dog deputy Ross did earlier. He shows this unruffled calm again later when he punctures the blustering bravado of the wannabe-shotgun rider by simply handing him his gun and with a stare silently challenging him to put up or shut up.
Rabble rousing and the psychology of crowds is a theme running through the film. I was reminded me of the early Lee/Ditko Spider-Man stories where one bystander's cynical remark is repeated and ratcheted up by the next person's until everyone is adding their uninformed suggestions as to what should be done and done right now. One especially telling scene is between the two young ladies expressing their outrage over the situation. At one point one girl asks the other, "isn't it exciting?" to which the other breaks into laughter and giggles, revealing their indignation is just a posture and that they're enjoying the spectacle; never mind it might result in a man being gunned down. Despite the fine clothes some of the townsfolk wear, their claim to civilization is just a thin veneer and little if anything separates them from the murderous gang, one of whose members passes among them unnoticed (except, tellingly, by a harlot).
Something I found funny was how the gambling hall is filled with men playing cards, completely unaware or uninterested in the unfolding drama outside that has captivated the balance of the town. Something the producers intended to be funny was the outlaw gang's falling off their horses, but it approached slapstick and seemed out of place in the tension-filled climax. Fritz Feld provided some good comic relief as the put-upon father of a brood of kids with a nagging wife. And didn't you just know that his mirror wasn't going to survive to see the end credits? Some familiar faces in uncredited parts include Frank Ferguson (maybe best known as the apoplectic McDougall in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein) and Howard Morris in his first film, playing a strange and menacing fellow fingering a rope that is far from the beloved Ernest T. Bass character he'd later play on The Andy Griffith Show (and ironically for an actor who did so many cartoon voices, he doesn't utter a word in this movie despite considerable screen time).
While Riding Shotgun isn't the expected action-filled western with scenes of horseback riding and rolling stagecoaches as the title implies, it does have a compelling tension-filled story, good acting and it more than entertains in its tight 74 minutes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
André De Toth's brisk 74 minute western "Riding Shotgun" is an
ambitious, above-average Randolph Scott horse opera that stands out
from the herd. The trigger-happy outlaws here are a downright dastardly
bunch; the townspeople turn into a moronic mob, and the hero creates
more trouble for himself because of this credulous mob that refuse to
believe him. Literally, Scott becomes the cowboy who cried wolf as far
as the citizens are concerned.
Seasoned western scenarist Thomas Blackburn and De Toth have fashioned Kenneth Perkins' novel "Riding Solo" into a first-rate, suspenseful sagebrusher that never lets up on its surprises. Moreover, "Riding Shotgun" illustrates De Toth's obsession with realism. The Marady gang's decoy strategy, the act of cinching a saddle onto a horse, the use of a derringer to blast the ropes off the hero's wrists, and actions of a mob that intensify without reason keep things lively in this slam-bang shoot'em up. For example, early in the action, heroic Larry DeLong (Randolph Scott of "Colt .45") has to get a horse to follow a man who may lead him to his sworn enemy Dan Marady. Instead of simply getting an already saddled mount and swinging astride, De Toth shows Delong actually taking the time to cinch the saddle to its' back. As is the case in many De Toth films, we see the heroes and villains actually doing thingslike saddling a horsethat other directors would eliminate as time-consuming and mundane. However, this is a set-up that De Toth pays off later when Delong sabotages the outlaw gang's departure by slicing through the cinches on their saddles so that they will bite the dust when they try to step aboard their p0nies.
De Toth and Blackburn allow the Randolph Scott character to narrate the picture so as to push the plot ahead and plant in our minds the very personal nature of Delong's revenge. The movie opens with Delong riding atop a stage coach as the shotgun messenger while Scott provides voice-over narration that brings the action quickly up to speed.
"For three years I dedicated every waking moment of my life to scouring the frontier for a killer for a very personal reason. I'd worked at all kinds of jobs from Wyoming to Oregon. In the last year, I'd working every stage line between Canada and Mexico, riding shotgun. I knew that sooner or later my path would again cross that of the man I wantedDan Marady." No sooner has Delong furnished this exposition and the stage coach rumbled past the camera than infamous Dan Marady (James Mullican of "Winchester '73") descends from the top of the pass that the stage just driven by and sends an old-timer off to the stage relay station to snooker Delong. Marady lives up to Delong's description: "as clever as he is ruthless and always managed to escape capture." Delong doesn't want to capture Marady; however, he means to kill him for the shooting deaths of his sister and his nephew. Consequently, from the outset, the hero has a strong motive to slay the villain. That makes for good drama! Anyway, Marady wants to rob the stage coach that Delong is guarding. To lure Delong away from the stage, he sends an old-timer into the relay station with his (Marady's) lucky charm derringer. At the station, Delong gets the shock of his life when he sees Marady's lucky derringer. He quits the stage coach to find out where the old-timer got the derringer and gets himself jumped and hogtied by Pinto ("The Great Escape's" Charles Bronson back when he was Buchinsky) and the rest of Marady's gang.
Marady's gang stops the coach, take the strong box, shoots up the passengers (but doesn't kill anybody) and sends the riddled stage coach off to Deepwater where the citizens take the law seriously. The outlawsprincipally Pintomistakenly share their devious strategy with Delong who warns them about the law and order imperative of Deepwater and its stern sheriff Buck Curlew. As it turns out, Marady is counting on the zealous law and order attitude of Deepwater. He plans to let the shot-up stage careen into town. Curlew and a posse will light out after them, but they won't know that they are chasing a herd of horses instead of Marady. Meanwhile, the Marady gang will rob the Bank Club, a gambling house, and escape without harm with loot. Unfortunately, for Marady and company, Delong escapes by shooting his ropes with Marady's derringer that the old-timer dropped by accident. When Delong shows up in Deepwater with news about the Marady gang, the citizens believe that he helped the gang rob the stage since he quit guarding it. Even a kid with a slingshot pops Delong on the cheek with a stone and our hero retreats into the sanctuary of a cantina to protect himself from the angry citizen's mob. Deputy Sheriff Tub Murphy (World War II flying ace Wayne Morris of "Bad Men of Missouri") has a field day as a pot-bellied lawman that refuses to capitulate to an irate mob and has the good sense to leave Delong alone. One of the townspeople, a man (Howard Davis of "The Andy Griffith Show where he played Earnest T. Bass) has noose ready for our hero. Eventually, the Marady gang ride into Deepwater and the fireworks erupt.
The good thing about "Riding Shotgun" is that the noble hero finds himself behind the eight-ball more often than not, and life is no cake walk for him. Millican is great as Scott's nemesis and Davis makes memorable impression without having to utter a syllable. Bronson has a great scene where he describes his trek across an inhospitable desert as a result of Delong's pursuit. De Toth sprinkles prostitute characters in the street mob as an added example of realism. "Riding Shotgun" is loaded with enough excitement, realism, and suspense to make it a blast to watch despite its age.
"Riding Shotgun" is a very entertaining western, were only they all so good. It boasts an unusual story and pacing: 80 percent of the movie takes place between a bloody stagecoach robbery in the beginning of the movie and a violent casino robbery at the conclusion of the movie. During this 80 percent middle period, Scott is alone in town trying to convince the elders to recall the sheriff and posse which have gone after the stage robbers, who Scott knows robbed the stage to draw the sheriff-posse out of town so they could more easily rob the casino. And the townsfolk think Scott is part of the gang of stage robbers and wants the sheriff-posse recalled to protect the gang. So what we have is this intriguing story, rugged handsome Scott, good color photography, some humor supplied mainly by deputy sheriff Wayne Morris and cantina-owner Fritz Feld, an interesting/wacky group of townsfolk (in varied dress,looks and demeanor ), beautiful Joan Weldon, and Scott's narration. Unfortunately the ending doesn't live up to the delicious intro, but the ride was most enjoyable. And nice fade-out.
Larry DeLong(Scott) is Riding Shotgun on stagecoaches, keeping them safe.
After a holdup, the town first thinks that he's a coward and then decide
that he must be a part of the gang -- and they're gonna get him! Meanwhile,
the real baddies are heading to town to rob the bank and only Scott can
Not quite up to High Noon standards, but a good yarn. Randolph Scott comes through, once again!
I'm glad to see that a majority of reviewers liked this film. I did,
too. It's one Scott Western that's passed me by until now, though
others are frequently shown on British TV.
The plot was more original than many 1950s' Westerns, and the town looked a little different to those so often seen. As has already been remarked, the townsfolk were a quirky lot, and there was some nice minor characterizations, especially the guy fondling a rope all the time.
What little love interest there was was unnecessary, doing nothing to the plot.
One might quibble at Scott's wish for a messenger to be sent to recall the posse. There wouldn't have been enough time to track it down and for it to return in time to combat the raid. And how obliging of Scott to ride so precisely under the tree that Bronson could jump on him. At least the revolvers ran out of ammunition after being fired six times, forcing their users to reload, unlike in some Westerns where they seem to have eight or more rounds in them.
I'll be happy to watch it again some time.
Riding Shotgun has Randolph Scott doing just that, riding shotgun for
various stagecoach lines. He's been doing this for several years, but
always on the lookout for a particularly mean and vicious outlaw played
by James Millican.
He's hot on the trail now, but Millican and his men also hate him with equal ferocity. They lure him off the line and hold up the stage, shooting it up pretty badly with driver and guard who replaced Scott both killed. The idea is to get the local sheriff to form a posse and start chasing the bandits while they come in and loot the town, particularly a gambling house known to have large sums on hand.
When Scott gets there he arrives with a lot of hatred written on the faces of the town who figure if he didn't have something outright to do with the holdup, he's a coward then. He can't convince no one no how that Millican is coming with a really big gang.
This film is directed by Andre DeToth who keeps the tension simmering in this film. Some in the town like Joe Sawyer the stageline owner want to lynch him on the spot, some like Deputy Wayne Morris who arrives back in the middle of action try real hard to maintain some kind of order and let Scott have his say.
Charles Bronson has one of his early roles in this film as a particularly vicious member of Millican's gang. But Millican and Scott between the two of them are what the film revolves around. Millican is every bit as shrewd and tough as Scott who narrates the film says he is. This is not and has not been an easy man to take down.
The final shootout is a classic, usually in Randolph Scott westerns they are. Riding Shotgum was one of his best B films from the Fifties.
Come to think of it, Randy does never use a shotgun in this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I like the way this Western talked about human nature--a sign of an
excellent film in this genre. For example, HIGH NOON and THE OXBOW
INCIDENT are two of the very best Westerns of all time and they, too,
investigate the mob mentality. Individually, people might be decent
folk--put them in a group, and they all become instant idiots! I like
this cynical aspect of the film and it makes this a standout film.
Randolph Scott plays a man who is seeking a gang of killers who rob stage coaches. He's been searching for years and now is working for the stage riding shotgun--the most likely way to meet up with these men. However, in a boneheaded move, he is lured away from the stage in search of the gang--and they soon catch HIM. He is left for dead and the gang then robs the stage. Scott soon manages to escape but when he finds his way into the nearest town, they assume Scott is part of the gang--after all, he wasn't on the stagecoach when it was attacked (while Scott was bound and waiting to die). The town seems to be inhabited by morons, because when he tries to warn the folks that the gang is planning on returning (since he heard their plans), they ignore him and even try to kill him. No matter that what they think isn't logical or that they've made some big assumptions, the town is determined to kill Scott. So, much of the film he's hiding out--trying to keep from killing the idiots in self-defense as well as avoiding their bullets. In the end, when the real gang shows up, it's of course up to good-guy Scott to save the day....even though the town really isn't worth saving.
While some of the film is a bit predictable and clichéd (such as Scott's unerring ability to hit the townspeople in the hand when they try to shoot him), it's much less than the usual film of this genre and watching Randolph Scott do his usual seemingly effortless performance make this film an exception to the usual Western fare. Plus, it's view of human nature makes this a transcendent film--one well worth seeking.
By the way, Charles Buchinsky is in the film in a supporting role. This is Charles Bronson, for those of you who didn't know his original name and he's quite young here.
Stage-line security guard Scott is lured away from town by a member of
his arch-enemy's gang and tied up to die from exposure. Escaping, he
returns to find the stage robbed and everyone thinking he's in cahoots
with the villains, with no one believing him when he tells them that
the robbery was a ruse to get the law out on a goose-chase so that the
real deal could go down. In fact, the whole town is ready to lynch
Though some of the portrayals of the ignorant townspeople are clearly over-the-top, Riding Shotgun is a very well-made and well-paced little western that really delivers the goods in terms of action and especially suspense.
There's a great role for a young Charles Bronson, who in his western debut (excluding an episode of The Roy Rodgers Show where he plays a boxer) as a sadistic member of the outlaw gang. The scenes where he joins the lynch mob and stokes them are pretty neat.
There's also a great role for Wayne Morris, who's probably best remembered for his role as a cowardly officer in Stanley Kubrick's Paths Of Glory, as the town's remaining deputy who desperately tries to prevent needless bloodshed.
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