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A Lawless Street
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A Lawless Street More at IMDbPro »

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22 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Worthwhile Western

Author: Eric Chapman ( from Pittsburgh, PA
15 July 2001

Sort of an early "Unforgiven" in some ways. Also similar to director Lewis' "Terror in a Texas Town" though thankfully not as goofy or campy. You get a real sense of the wild west slowly being tamed, of it making the uneasy transition from a violent, lawless land to a reasonably civilized place where law and order stand a chance. I liked Randolph Scott's metaphor for the town, that it's like a wild animal that keeps getting kicked, and sooner or later it's going to do more than just snarl and growl miserably; it's going to bite back.

Scott makes a good, twinkle-eyed loner hero and Angela Lansbury is quite attractive as his leggy showgirl love interest, (though she would begin playing mothers of grown children just a few years later) but their romance is rather obligatory and uninspired. Both the villains are effective, Warner Anderson as the unscrupulous (what else?)womanizing businessman and Michael Pate as the sinister gloved gunman (Lewis seems to have a thing about gunman wearing gloves). Anderson's line deliveries are extremely flat and matter of fact, which just makes him that much more detestable somehow. He's like a greed machine, no heart, no emotion whatsoever.

At first glance this may seem like no more than just another passable western, but it's got some meat on its bones. And Lewis really shines when it comes to building the suspense leading up to the inevitable bar room showdown between the bad guy and the good.

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15 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

weird western

Author: RanchoTuVu from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico
21 February 2005

A town is at the crossroads between law and order and its commercial interests, saloon owner Cody Clarke (John Emery) and mayor Hamer Thorne (Warner Anderson) choose the latter in order to maintain the surging saloon business. In order to achieve their goal they have to get rid of the competent marshal played by Randolph Scott, and hire a gunman (Michael Pate) to take care of him. Scott is wounded and widely believed to have been killed, but comes back to settle scores, while his ex-wife (Angela Lansbury) who is now a singer and dancer in a burlesque company comes into town and does a quite revealing song and dance number. Directed by B film genius Joseph H. Lewis, the film has originality, style, and quite an interesting premise, though the opportunities slip by.

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13 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Randolph Scott meets Jessica Fletcher

Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
21 July 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Randolph Scott is the town marshal like Gary Cooper in High Noon. Only instead of four guys coming to town to kill the marshal because of an old grudge, here we have a trio of villains, Warner Anderson, John Emery, and Michael Pate. The first two have been hiring folks to do in Scott because they want a wide open and lawless town for the saloon business. They've finally settled on Pate who does beat Scott to the draw and folks think he's been killed.

Warner Anderson is a particularly smarmy villain. He's got designs on Angela Lansbury who's a touring musical performer in town for a few performances. He's also been romancing the wife of the biggest rancher in the area played by Jean Parker and he says openly that it was only for his own amusement. That remark costs him dear in the movie later on.

Scott has a particularly brutal fight scene with Don Megowan who's the brother of a man Scott kills in the first 15 minutes of the film. Ranks up there with his classic brawls with John Wayne in The Spoilers and Pittsburgh.

I remember a Gunsmoke episode years ago where this particular plot line was used. Someone beats Matt Dillon to the draw and Doc Adams pretends he's dead and in the meantime works furiously to save his life. Here that role is taken by town doctor Wallace Ford. Both Randolph Scott and James Arness live to best the villain, but the story is how in both cases and I won't say more.

A good cast of veteran Hollywood performers makes A Lawless Street a pleasure to watch. And Angela Lansbury has a musical number. What's better than that?

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13 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

The right people make the law.

Author: Michael O'Keefe from Muskogee OK
23 January 2004

Classic western. A marshal(Randolph Scott)finds himself tired of taming the beast. A hired gunman(Michael Pate)is hired by businessmen(Warner Anderson and John Emery)to "take care of" the lawman so corruption can run the town. Plenty of action and strong supporting cast featuring: Jean Parker, Don Megowan, Wallace Ford and Angela Lansbury as the winsome showgirl. Pate as the gloved gunman practically steals the show. The stoic Scott proves why he has top billing.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:


Author: dougdoepke from Claremont, USA
13 January 2012

No need to repeat the plot since it's a pretty standard one. Considering the talent involved, the results are more than a little disappointing. I agree with other critics—Scott looks tired and less motivated than his usual self. Plus, the unlikely pairing of him with an actress 30- years younger (Lansbury) only accentuates the problem.

It's also a talky indoor western, perhaps to accommodate the many veteran actors in the cast, with only Donnelly (old Molly) showing any real spark. Those many speaking parts also make for an unwieldy storyline. And for some reason, cult director Lewis shows little engagement as the rather flat performances and impersonal climax demonstrate.

Not everything is downside. Don Megowan's hulking gun-hater comes across as an interesting character, certainly no stereotype, in a role that should have been bigger. There're also a couple of unexpected twists that help spark interest. But, the overall results remain uneven, at best. Good thing for western fans that Scott soon hooked up with Buddy Boetticher and Ranown, a combo that knew how to get the most out of the aging actor in a series of memorable classics. But despite the presence here of Ranown's producer Harry Joe Brown, this is not one of them.

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

A Man that Makes the Difference

Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
30 January 2010

In Medicine Bend, Marshal Calem Ware {Randolph Scott} is the man that brought law and order to the town, supported by the powerful rancher Asaph Dean (James Bell) and his reputation; his skill with his gun is frequently tested by gunners that unsuccessfully challenge him. When the greedy local businessman Hamer Thorne (Warner Anderson) brings the actress Tally Dickenson (Angela Lansbury) to perform a show for the locals, Calem is haunted by his past since Tally is his wife that left him in Apache Wells due to his dangerous way of life. Meanwhile Thorne associates to the scum Cody Clark (John Emery) and together they hire the outlaw Harley Baskam (Michael Pate) that is considered the fastest gunner in the region to duel with Calem and kill him and leave Medicine Bend ready for their dirty businesses.

"A Lawless Street" is a good western about a man that makes the difference in a small town. I am not a great fan of this genre, but I like a lot the elegant Randolph Scott, an actor that successfully performs the typical sheriff or cowboy in these movies. His characters have usually the same characteristics of a honest man with a past. Angela Lansbury is an actress that I used to see ad an old lady, and is it nice to see her with thirty year-old only. Michael Pate, Warner Anderson and John Emery perform great villains. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Obrigado a Matar" ("Forced to Kill")

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Funny how a man softens to another when once he's killed him.

Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
26 January 2010

Marshal Calem Ware (Randolph Scott) is tired of Medicine Bend, tired of killing and tired of reprobates trying to kill him. He's also haunted by pain in his past. So when the past resurfaces and yet another scum-bag turns up to put out his light, Calem faces what he hopes will be the final day of reckoning.

Brought to us by the Scott/Brown production company, A Lawless Street is directed by Joseph H. Lewis, adapted from a Brad Ward story (Marshal of Medicine Bend) by Kenneth Gamet and features cinematography from Ray Rennahan at French Ranch - Hidden Valley Road, Thousand Oaks in California. Joining Scott in the cast are Angela Lansbury, Warner Anderson, Jean Parker & Wallace Ford.

This film came a year before Scott would do Seven Men From Now with Budd Boetticher, the start of which was a run of "adult" Westerns that showcased the best of both Scott and the Western of the 50s. So it's not unsurprising to find that "A Lawless Street" is some way short of the quality of the Boetticher/Scott movies. In fact, Scott may not just be in character for the film, he looks genuinely tired, which is in keeping with the very tired feel of it all.

It has proved to be a pretty divisive film amongst Western purists, the routine story not helped by the fact it has been done to perfection before in other, more notable genre pieces. While the script also lacks vim and vigour and Scott is surrounded by very average actors. The ending fizzles out after the promise of so much more, and in fact it's ponderously drawn out. Yet the first half of the film saves it from being a stinker, Lewis' camera-work is fluid and fist fight fans are served up a treat. And we even get Lansbury flexing her tonsils for a delightful little ditty.

So it's very much a film of two differing halves, one that sadly doesn't make for a satisfying whole. Much like Switzerland, I'm staying neutral with it, a 5/10 rating is given on proviso that it's noted that where Scott and Lewis are concerned, I'm unashamedly biased.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Ramshackle highlights

Author: whitec-3 from United States
10 September 2009

Posters' reactions to A Lawless Street divide sharply between most who think it's a comfortable classic and a few who complain of its poor writing and flat acting. I'm a considerable Randolph Scott fan, and Angela Lansbury looks great in her tight period costumes, but there's little chemistry and their script doesn't help. The theme of civilizing the west is respectable, with the town as "beast" a fair metaphor, but aside from horses and drinking, the words don't become flesh as Columbia earns its rep as the cheap studio. The only interesting part of the writing is the names: Calem, Asaph, Harley. The score is strangely inappropriate, and the second half seems rushed compared to the building of character in the first half. The populous cast is of some talent and interest, but some characters look alike and appear after such long intervals that they're hard to tell apart. Still and all, Scott has the power of his generation to turn any part into his trademark character of integrity, and Angela seems like a visitor from another planet or studio.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

More Routine than Anything Else

Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA
23 May 2004

The story is simplicity itself. Scott is the marshall keeping the town (referred to several times as a wild beast) peaceful despite the efforts of two corrupt businessmen to take it over and run it on their terms. They hire a gunman (Pate) to come in and knock off Scott. At about the same time Scott's showgirl wife (Lansbury) shows up. They've separated because she doesn't want him using guns to earn a living. Or something like that. (Where have we seen this before?) Pate shoots Scott, who recovers later and shoots Pate. The businessmen are subdued by the rest of the townspeople who have come to their senses and acquired ethics. Scott hands over his badge because the beast has been tamed and the town no longer needs his kind of marshall. He rides off into the sunset with his wife and a carriage full of luggage and mulligan stew. The end.

Angela Lansbury is a first-rate actress. She wows the audience in pieces as different as "The Manchurian Candidate," "Death on the Nile," and "Sweeney Todd" on Broadway. But she's given practically nothing to do here. Warner Anderson's acting is flat and matter-of-fact but he's okay. The other villainous businessmen are less than interesting, which is too bad because movies like this depend as much on the character of their heavies as they do on the star. Wally Ford is in the Thomas Mitchell/ Edgar Buchanan part. The movie's score blossoms during the overture to Lansbury's stage appearance. Elsewhere the score is overblown and sounds hastily assembled with comic notes where none are called for.

The second half of the movie deteriorates. I cannot imagine why the rich ranchers and the rest of the townspeople (the wild beasts) have a sudden and entirely unmotivated change of heart and rally to Scott's side. Also, Scott gets to beat hell out of a human being the size of Man Mountain Dean, without using a gun. The two men have a lengthy and brutal fistfight and wind up with their shirts torn to shreds but not a drop of blood is spilled. But the first third of the movie gives Scott some scenes and dialogue that are outstanding for him, considering his usual persona. He shoots a man in self defense and is, if not ashamed of having done it, at least remorseful. The victim's widow has some sensible and believable lines too, and not favorable to Scott. Scott doesn't go on about his sadness -- he never goes on about anything. But we can sense the writers and the director giving him a chance to play something more than a heroic marble statue. It would have been nice had the rest of the movie been so played.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Yet another very good Western from Randolph Scott.

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
20 August 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Randolph Scott made a ton of Westerns and you could almost always rely on them to be well-acted, intelligently written and a bit better than the genre. While this film certainly doesn't stand out among these many films, it certainly is good and worthwhile--particularly if you've become a Randolph Scott fan like me.

I liked how this film didn't deny that Scott was getting older. He plays a sheriff with a fast gun who realizes that he's made a lot of enemies by enforcing the law over the years--and his reflexes aren't exactly as good as they used to be. I loved how he took a nap by locking himself in one of his back jail cells--so that no one could sneak up on him! Scott deals with a couple angry jerks looking to take him down near the beginning of the film. I particularly loved the barber's chair scene--I wasn't too surprised by it but it was handled well. However, now he has something different to deal with--a greedy and amoral gambler who is determined to get rid of the sheriff once and for all. So, he brings in a hired gun who soon shoots Scott. Now this is the only real problem with the film. It expects us to believe that a gunman who hates Scott shoots him from about fifteen feet and the bullet somehow glances off Scott's head! Even I could have made this shot, and I'm no gunslinger! So you are expected to believe this and not question this plot line for the rest of the film to work. However, I was able to temporarily suspend disbelief and liked what happened next.

The acting and writing are fine and Scott is helped by having some excellent support in the film. It's a good old fashioned story about one man defying the odds--somewhat like HIGH NOON or RIO BRAVO. I especially liked how it all ended.

Memorable and worth seeing, though look for the Scott films directed by Budd Boetticher to see his best film or his final film that was directed by Sam Peckinpah.

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