When John Stewart gives refuge to Wick Campbell's girl friend, Campbell turns against him. He rustles Stewart's cattle, murders his brother, and brings in hired guns. Then he and his men pin Stewart and a few others down in a house apparently killing them. But Stewart has escaped and returns alone to rid the town of Campbell and his men. Written by
Maurice VanAuken <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In contrast to his usual roles as a loner or "stranger in town", Randolph Scott plays a very successful rancher, but doesn't really fit the patriarch mould, though he does get to wear a fancy waistcoat.Like other commentators, I thought that his practical joke at the beginning was foolish, and that the way the chip on bad guy Wick Campbell's shoulder grew was a bit unbelievable. And it was way into the film that I started to wonder about the "Ten Wanted Men" of the title. When the imported bad guys massed for the final shoot-out I tried to count them, and they did seem to number ten.
I wondered if the version I saw on British TV had been subject to editing, such was the jerky plot, but the original runtime of 80 minutes was accommodated by the 85-minute viewing slot (including a couple of commercial breaks). The relationship between Maria and Howie seemed to happen instantaneously, and the "ten wanted men" turned up in town almost spontaneously.
It was good to see Skip Homeier acting against type; he's nearly always a bad guy who gets killed; here he's even slow to rise to provocation from one of Campbell's heavies. I was half-expecting him to turn out bad but...
Leo Gordon stole quite a few scenes from Richard Boone, who didn't perform that well. He had the most complex role in the film, with a chip-on-the-shoulder, somewhat pathetic infatuation with a young girl, and a really mean streak.
Lee van Cleef didn't have much to do. "High Noon" apart, his filmography up to now had been unimpressive, but his day was coming.
Quite apart from his misplaced sense of humour at the beginning, Scott took a foolish risk by walking into the bad guy's saloon by himself, and where were all his ranch-hands in the final confrontation? Without them, he had an unimpressive set of allies in the siege. Earlier he had recalled how he had won his land from the Apaches despite them burning him out four time, so perhaps he had a strong sense of indestructibility. John Wayne would have carried off the role better.
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