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A Wyoming rancher and his foreman journey to Oregon to get breeding steers in order to raise cattle that can withstand the harsh Wyoming winters. What the rancher doesn't know is that he is the target of a plot to murder him and steal his cattle. Written by
George Montgomery is Steve Patrick, a cattle rancher with a plan to create a new, improved crossbreed that will be hardy enough to withstand the unforgiving Wyoming winters. But first he must drive his herd of cattle to his Wyoming ranch. The problem is that no respectable cattle hand is interested in travelling into the bad weather out of season, so he's forced to hire a band of ne'er-do-wells. What he doesn't realise is that his best friend Bob (Peter Graves) is planning to double-cross him by engineering an ambush at the eponymous Canyon River with the local bad guy when the drive is nearly over. Added into the mix is the comely widow (Marcia Henderson) with a young son whom both Steve and Bob fall for, thus stirring Bob's resentment of his friend even further.
Canyon River is one of those modest Western programmers that have no pretensions of artistic merit but which simply strive to tell a straightforward story in as efficient and economical a way possible. The story is fairly unusual for this kind of film. There's not that much gunplay, as the plot focuses more on the simmering tensions that exist between Steve, Bob and Janet and the band of rogues led by cuddly Alan Hale Jr. Chances are you've probably never come across such a lacklustre band of outlaws as this bunch; Montgomery's character only has to give Hale a few smacks across the chops to win his undying loyalty, and the rest of the crew only pay attention to the fetching young widow when she's dishing up chow on the trail. It's this lack of any prominent bad guys Bob is essentially a good guy gone temporarily astray that robs what is otherwise a decent little movie of the level of suspense it needs.
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