The latest of a series of stagecoach holdups in the Arizona Territory takes place on a stagecoach in which Mike Ryan, undercover agent for the stage line, and Molly Jones, daughter of the local sheriff, are passengers. The bandana masking one of the robbers slips and he is killed by the gang-leader Velvet Clark. The latter masquerades as a respectable piano-playing citizen of the community. The townspeople are aroused enough over the continued robberies that they ask Sheriff Tom Jones to resign but they agree to give him more time when he takes on Ryan as a deputy. Circumstantial evidence leads the sheriff to Clark, but the latter kills him and escapes. Ryan tracks him to Gunsight Ridge where there is a showdown gunfight. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Gunsight Ridge is directed by Francis Lyon and written by Talbot and Elisabeth Jennings. It stars Joel McCrea, Mark Stevens, Joan Weldon, Addison Richards, Darlene Fields and Carolyn Craig. Music is by David Raksin (title tune sung by Dean Jones) and cinematography by Ernest Laszlo.
McCrea plays Mike Ryan, an undercover Stage Line agent who while investigating a series of robberies takes the job of a deputy Sheriff in a border Arizona town.
Gunsight Ridge is a neat little Western, better than most of its black and white type because it rises above its formulaic story to reveal interesting characters and good strands of plotting. In the mix is the detective work as Ryan hunts stagecoach robber Velvet Clark (Stevens) whilst also enforcing law in the town. There's a gang of ruffians on the outskirts of town known as The Lazy Heart Boys, who offer a side-bar of criminal activity, while Ryan and the Sheriff's daughter (Weldon) start to build an attraction. There's cold blooded murder on show, a rampaging stagecoach sequence through the rocky terrain and a finale up in them thar rocks that satisfies greatly. It is also a film that looks and sounds terrific. Raksin's score is full of thunder and sorrow, while Laszlo's moody photography is atmospherically noirish.
It's the characterisation of Velvet Clark that is the trump card though. He is shown to be a ruthless killer and thief, yet he also has a sympathetic edge. He is given some depth by the writers, shown to be a frustrated pianist, he's tortured by his artistic leanings and how he has ended up on the wrong side of the law. With McCrea doing another in his line of straight backed and stoic man of the people turns, the dual aspect of good and bad characters works beautifully. There's other little character moments of worth as well, such as Carolyn Craig playing a young farm girl romanticising herself with the outlaw Clark, and old Sheriff Jones (Richards) obsessed with catching the robber because he doesn't want his perfect record blemished.
Comfortably recommended to fans of 1950s B Westerns. 7/10
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?