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Ben Matthews gives up the flashy life of a riverboat gambler, hoping to settle down in Galena with his girlfriend, luscious entertainer Zoe. But Galena's leading citizen is murdered on the boat; Ben, on arrival, finds a lynch mob after his neck, and flees. Three years of wandering later, Zoe's letters stop coming and Ben returns to find her and attempt the hopeless task of clearing himself. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Riverboat gambler Ben has to flee town and his girl after he's suspected of killing a leading citizen. Now he's got to clear himself with shaky help from horse thief, Rick Harper.
Going in, I figured the movie would amount to a vehicle for one of Universal's new, young stars, Tony Curtis. Well, the first 20-minutes had me figuring otherwise. First, Curtis's Ben gets caught cheating at cards, then he gets spurned by his girlfriend, and finally does something totally unWesternloses a fist-fight to a bad guy and ends up tossed unceremoniously into the river. By this point, I wondered whether someone in Hollywood had mixed up the reels.
But no, after this unexpected opening the film settles into the more familiar western heroics, with Ben getting his share, plus the girl. However, there are several more offbeat touches in the works, including a lynching where Ben refrains from intervening after calculating the odds. No heroics here. Then too, there's the great actor Arthur Kennedy as Ben's sometimes buddy and full-time horse thief, Harper. Now Kennedy's usual style is to low-key his parts, which he does effectively, e.g. The Man From Laramie (1955). Here, however, he pulls out all the stops with an over-the-top performance that steals many a scene from the more subdued Curtis. I'm surprised the studio didn't intervene, since its Curtis's career that's presumably being advanced.
Anyhow, it's a kind of offbeat western and not just a showcase for pretty boy Curtis. Nothing special, but still more unpredictable than most oaters.
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