New ranch owner Frank Madden, half Indian but posing as white, arrives just as an all white jury finds the three white Shipley brothers who lynched three Indians innocent. There is soon trouble between Frank and the Shipleys who are using Frank's land to graze their cattle. When the brother of one of the Indian victims kills a Shipley, Frank is accused and put in jail. The Shipleys then organize a lynch mob and head for the jail. Written by
Maurice VanAuken <email@example.com>
It was interesting to learn that the origin of the film Reprisal! was a novel set in the post World War II south and it had to do with racial prejudice against black people. One can easily see why Columbia Pictures did not want to do an adaption in that vein. That southern market even in the beginning of the civil rights era was still a potent force. Ergo the setting was changed to the old west and the object of prejudice were Indians.
Saying that Reprisal! is still a very powerful film and one hopes that in theaters in the south some people did get a more subtle message from the film. In a role similar to the one that Robert Taylor played in Devil's Doorway, Guy Madison plays a mixed racial individual who is passing for white because that's the only way he can own his own spread. He's bought a ranch that has been used by a trio of some loathsome brothers named Shipley played by Edward Platt, Michael Pate, and Wayne Mallory who have a bad hatred for the red man.
When Madison is accused of killing Mallory the remaining two Shipley brothers stir the town into a lynching fever. After that the truth comes out all around.
In fact Pate like many a redneck only carries his prejudice so far. He has the hots for Kathryn Grant and the future Mrs. Bing Crosby is quite the fetching woman here. I can see how this portion of the story translates into the pre-civil rights era culture in the deep south. But Grant likes Madison as does Felicia Farr daughter of the town newspaper editor Robert Burton.
Even changing the location Columbia Pictures still made a fine drama about the evils of racial prejudice. It holds up well today.
And this film review is dedicated to the people of Lancaster, New York who just changed their high school football team name from Redskins. A little viewing of this film and Devil's Doorway might give some of those who are still angry at the name change some understanding as to how offensive that name is.
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