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|Index||21 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"This town is like a wild animal in chains, Molly," says Marshal Calem
Ware to his landlady while she fries his bacon and eggs for breakfast.
"It doesn't fight back right away. It just lies there and snarls,
waiting for a chance to pounce on you."
"Be careful, Calem," is Molly's helpful advice.
A Lawless Street is the story of Calem Ware (Randolph Scott) and his determination to bring law and order to Medicine Bend. Unknown to Ware, there is a faction in town determined to run things wide open. Money -- big money -- is involved. This means Ware has to be taken care of. A hired killer with a draw as fast as Calem's might be the answer. Complicating matters for Ware is the arrival of Tally Dickerson (Angela Lansbury), a music hall singer engaged to play with her troupe at the town's new opera house. Nine years ago the two were man and wife, then Tally left him. They're still married. "I didn't know what it was like for a man to make his living with his gun," Tally tells Caleb when they meet again, "walking the streets a living target. I died a little more each day and I died more at night." Even Lansbury can't do much with lines like that.
The movie is packed with such poor writing that we don't believe a minute of it. The script is full of characters who tell each who they are and what motivates them, instead of demonstrating this. At frequent intervals an out-of-breath minor character rushes up to Caleb to announce another crisis is at hand. Thank goodness we have Scott's steadfastness to believe in and the smiling sleaziness of John Emery, playing one of the bad guys, to enjoy. The writing is so poor it makes even a fine actress like Angela Lansbury sound like someone from a daytime soap opera. We have Lansbury singing and dancing once, but I'd swear her singing was dubbed, a strange decision.
Although I thought the movie might be interesting with the odd duo of a 57-year-old Randolph Scott with the 30-year-old Angela Lansbury, the pairing seemed uncomfortable and unlikely. The film's modest pleasures come from a handful of long-time character actors, such as Wallace Ford, who died a memorable death in a steam room in Blood on the Sun, Ruth Donnelly, always good in many movies as the often irascible but good-hearted motherly type, and, of course, Emery. I always admired the way he tried to put the moves on Ingrid Bergman in Spellbound.
You might notice that Randolph Scott is trying very hard in this film
and is committed to a good performance, and this is one of his best. He
tried noticeably harder in movies that he produced (understandably)
like this one versus the studio-contract films he endlessly tromped
through for many years.
Scott, like many leading men, also noticeably worked well with respected superior actresses like Angela Lansbury here, as opposed to just random movie actresses and bimbos. Scott ups his game here and their scenes together are good.
Excellent supporting players are on hand including the avuncular Wallace Ford, perennially versatile and noted actor Michael Pate, and others. John Emery, almost unknown today but part of the Hollywood fabric for a long time, makes a too-rare Western villain appearance as a rotten saloon owner. Middle age and many years of sins are etched in Emery's face. He is perfect for this role. Some fans will undoubtedly remember Emery from the sci-fi classic "Kronos".
Angela Lansbury- what can I say but just note how she distinguishes and elevates this movie. You know what I mean- she's Angela Lansbury.
So the formula routine plotting and the clichés are uplifted in the end result of "A Lawless Street". I can recommend it for Western fans and for fans of the individual actors involved.
"A Lawless Street" is a solid b-western, directed by veteran Joseph H.
Lewis, starring veteran Randolph Scott (who also helped produce the
film), and supported by an extensive cast of Hollywood professionals.
The cast is amazing. Even if all the names are unfamiliar, their faces and voices are. Most people will know Wallace Ford. He's the town doctor and friend of Scott, always ready with counsel. Angela Lansbury is a traveling showgirl and singer, the wife of Scott. They've been separated for years, until she is booked into the town. Their love still burns bright, but will she move on or not, because she can't take the violence her husband attracts. Jean Parker, memorable from the 1944 "Bluebeard" is on hand as the wife of a rich rancher (James Bell); she's having an adulterous affair with businessman Warner Anderson. Anderson usually played doctors and military men, upright figures, but here he's very shady. He wants to get rid of Scott and take over the whole town, making money by re-opening the mines. He's in cahoots with John Emery, an actor with a distinctive voice who is memorable in the sci-fi "Kronos" (1957). This pair hires Michael Pate as the gunslinger to take out Scott. Pate has always been an actor in heavy demand. Let's not forget his role as a vampire in the West in "Curse of the Undead". Then, in smaller but notable parts, are Ruth Donnelly, the Warner Brothers veteran, and Jeanette Nolan. Last, there is a big guy named Dan Megowan who did quite a lot of TV work. Among his movie outings is "The Creature Walks Among Us" in which he played the Gill Man.
With a cast like this, it almost doesn't matter that we are watching yet another western. Westerns give us a comfort level and familiarity as a viewer. This one has no outside vistas of beauty. All the action is in and around the main street of the town, which becomes a lawless street. There's an adult western gloss to it, as we get into the characters. But this aspect is not overdone. Director Lewis does what he can to give us some interesting shots. No classic here, but one that I've returned to watch a second time. The people in it seem real and draw us in.
Yes, I know my rating for this is a tad high, but I just love both
Randolph's work in general and Angela Lansbury at this really sexy
juncture of her career. They have a really good chemistry together,
even though the age difference is a shade on the 'Love in the
Afternoon' or 'Lolita' side and can be a bit unnerving. Though I've
enjoyed other Joseph H. Lewis films, such as 'Invisible Ghost' and 'Gun
Crazy', he still doesn't have the touch for Western material that Scott
would later enjoy in his collaborations with Budd Boetticher. It's not
as dramatic a difference as comparing apples and oranges, but it is
noticeable. At least when it comes to Westerns (I haven't seen other
types of films by Boetticher), the guy's definitely an auteur, on the
level of, say, an Anthony Mann, Howard Hawks or even John Ford.
Very enjoyable, and a work of distinguished quality, definitely worth owning and re-watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Even the most mediocre of movie West westerns looks a heck of a lot
better in color, and this one ain't half bad. It's a familiar story,
one made famous by "High Noon", this time with marshal Randolph Scott
having a legendary reputation that makes dishonest men seek revenge and
the women who love him leave him rather than watch him increase the
notches on his gun.
Somebody is out to get him, obviously putting a hit on him through an old enemy who ends up dead himself . The arrival of stage actress Angela Lansbury stirs the pot even more with her engagement to ruthless Warner Anderson who has his own plans for Scott.
A ton of veteran actors support Scott and Lansbury, including the salty Ruth Donnelly, hysterically funny as a restaurant proprietor who flirts with Scott while looking out for him like a mother, Wallace Ford as the town doctor, Frank Ferguson as the loyal saloon owner and Jean Parker as an aging glamor girl who seems to have mixed dealings. Jeanette Nolan is featured as the widow of the man Scott killed in self defense, while Don Megowan is excellent as her brother- in-law who hates guns and knew his brother deserved what he got yet can't help but seek revenge. His performance reminded me of Lon Chaney Jr. in "Of Mice and Men".
Lansbury is a stronger female lead than Grace Kelly in "High Noon", getting to perform a musical number from the very first American musical, "The Black Crook". While I couldn't confirm it, she did sound like it was her singing, although it's far less brassier than how she sounded in " Mame". Scott is excellent, although he lacks the emotional conflict of Gary Cooper. Still, there are enough sides in his character to make him very complex. This isn't a classic western by any means, but it has enough tension to keep your interest.
not a very bad western......predictable.....but fun to see Randolph Scott practically always in a good humour and looking good for his advancing age. the action is alright and the actors do their jobs....but i don't get Angela lansbury. in all her roles she ruins the movie for me I'm sorry but she doesn't pull my heart strings at all. yes luckily randy was in this film because i don't think i would have reached the end. i have 4 more Scott westerns to watch i hope they fare better than this one and Angela is not co starring or even a character actress. oh i forgot the atmosphere of the movie really passes well and the town is well depicted. maybe a few known character actors....gabby Hayes...Andy devine...Walter Brennan would have helped it get better
One of the Things that Elevates This One to Slightly Above Average for
a Fifties Western is the Ever Present, Ever Humble, Ever Dependable,
Ever Demanding, Randolph Scott, the Western Icon Who was Immortalized
for His Contribution to the Genre by Mel Brooks in "Blazing Saddles"
Astute Fans of the Western Know That His Collaborations with Budd Boetticher are the Highlights of His 60 Westerns, and Of Course, No One Could Forget His Curtain Call in Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country (1962).
Angela Lansbury Does a Singing and Dancing Number, but Not Much Else. There is an Extended Fist Fight Between Scott's Marshall and a Hulk of Man (said to have killed a mountain lion with his bare hands because the cat scratched his face).
Some Solid Supporting Actors Like Wallace Ford and Others, and the Steady Direction from Joseph H. Lewis Help Somewhat. This Beast of a Town is There to be Tamed by Scott, but He Needs the Help of the Townspeople to Be Successful. Will They Pitch In Before It's Too Late? Good Guess.
Overall, Worth a Watch for Genre Fans. It's a Notch Above Standard Fare but Nothing that Special. Starting the Next Year Randolph Scott Starts the Ball Rolling with Some Very Special Stuff with Boettcher.
Marshal Randolph Scott is the only thing standing between the town of
Medicine Bend and lawlessness. Corrupt businessmen in town hire gunmen
to get Scott out of the way. Meanwhile, Scott's estranged wife Angela
Lansbury shows up, having left him years before due to his violent
Scott and Lansbury are fine. Solid support from Wallace Ford, Jeanette Nolan, and Michael Pate. One of Jean Parker's last movies. She's reduced to a minor part as a married woman having an affair with one of the villains. Predictable western. A couple of nice action scenes. Nothing special but a decent time-passer. Ending is pretty flat.
This is the title of the German version translated into English. That is the way in the sixties German audience could have been attracted to a western movie. This is for me in some respects an outstanding western. I would like to explain why. American western movies are often not very realistic . I give you some examples: 1. heroic main characters are often good looking, handsome (which is not really what disturbs me) and know how to use a gun or knife 2. the characters are mostly simple, straight-forward, there is the good and there is the evil 3. the movies make us believe that the wild west bustled with a few reasonable and righteous people and astonishingly out of 200 adult inhabitants of a town, 190 are cowards or villains or lynchers and of course miserable people or everything altogether which one could find in the gutter of humankind (outside town the rate is a little more favourable)- something I cannot believe,because I do not want to believe, that we Europeans only sent the sludge of our civilization over the ocean. 4.as for shooting! Shootings in American western movies! A world in itself. I wonder whether writers, directors are aware that this is always the most unrealistic part in their films. In every western movie you see somebody shooting with an old muzzle loader 5 miles and kick the rider from the horse; in every movie you see cowboys shooting from the hip, without aiming on a silver dollar thrown into the air, you guess, they hit, not to speak that villains do not get their opponents although they fire from close distance, let us say 20 centimeters, hundreds of broadsides, while the sheriff is shooting back with one single shot between the eyes of the five bandits. This reminds me to war films, where the American guys are outnumbered by their enemies who have a tremendous arsenal of weapons which turn out to be completely useless whereas the American guy swiftly (and heroically) kills with his Colt a whole batallion. What is this nonsense for? Life is not like High Noon. But sometimes it is good to believe it, right? I stop the list here to come to the "man like a devil". What an incredible scene! The sheriff has a shootout with the villain and what happens? I could hardly believe my eyes. The sheriff is felled - although not deadly. The gangster prevails! When it comes to the second shooting the sheriff is clever enough not to risk a fair duel.Right so! That is something I can take. Can You remember the scene where Rob Roy desperately holds the sabre of the opponent who is going to kill him in the next moment with his bare hand?! The big man has no chance in the fair fight against the small but capable adversary, but he has a helping idea. That is how you have to go against the rat pack of this world, which is often more powerful, more skilled. This western movie has some astonishing aspects and therefore I honour him with 8 asterics. By the way Randolph Scott is in his western movies always already a senior. It is the same in true life. Do not expect too much from the youngsters,usually they wet their trousers in difficult situations!
This is really no lesser an achievement than the renowned Randolph
Scott/Budd Boetticher Westerns; then again, director Lewis was no
slouch (for he made his fair share of minor classics)!
Scott's role is typical a legendary marshal involved in a HIGH NOON (1952)-type situation, where he's practically left alone to clean up a town riddled with corruption and violence but the underrated actor invests it with warmth, humor, tenacity and a quiet dignity. The star, then, is supported by a most excellent cast: Angela Lansbury (a fine actress but a rather unlikely chanteuse), James Bell (a usurped town leader), Jean Parker (an ageing belle and the latter's wife), Wallace Ford (predictably in the role of the reliable town doctor), Ruth Donnelly (as Scott's gracious elderly housekeeper), Jeanette Nolan (as the wife of a revenge-seeking ex-con whom Scott has killed in self-defense), and an interesting trio of villains powerful boss Warner Anderson (who also fancies himself a ladies' man and, in fact, strikes up relationships with both Parker and Lansbury throughout), shifty but nervous gambler John Emery and smooth gunslinger Michael Pate (making for a worthy opponent to Scott).
The above-average script by Kenneth Gamet (an in-joke shows the calendar in the hero's room as being sponsored by Gamet's Vegetable Compound!) gives characterization reasonable depth: Scott and Lansbury are married but she had left him because of his dangerous job (a situation which she has to live through again now); Scott tells Donnelly that he hears The Beast (which symbolizes the scourge of the town) every morning until it's replaced by church-bells at the end of the picture. The highlights most of the action seems to take place in and around one particular saloon, though in a montage we're shown that Anderson's 'protection' extends to many others in town include an energetic and brutal fistfight between the hero and a dim-witted giant (who subsequently joins forces with him), an astonishing shoot-out two-thirds of the way involving Scott and Pate which ends with the former left for dead, and the splendid extended climax. On top of it all is the pleasing cinematography by an expert in color lensing, Ray Rennahan.
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