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Joseph H. Lewis
Educated but hot-headed Mitch Baker travels to the border town of Mission intent on avenging the death of his secret service father at the hand of contraband gang leader Newton. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Stalwart Scott Brady plays Mitch Baker, an attorney whose father, a Secret Service agent, has been slain in a southern Texas town by the leader of a renegade band of Americans that is selling arms to Emperor Maximilian's army in Mexico, and Mitch treks to the site of his father's death with a design of vengeance in this film set in 1865. The script is weakly composed with markedly inferior dialogue that is responsible for denying the actors an opportunity to interpret their roles, and with a considerable amount of anachronism, such as when the local marshal berates Mitch for behaviour stemming from an overwhelming "ego", a word not introduced into public parlance until Sigmund Freud culturally explicated it in the 20th century. Veteran director Allan Dwan is as effective as his scenarios will allow, accounting for his slack helmsmanship here in a work that begs for more substantive editing, denied instead because of its pronounced musical emphasis including three songs penned by producer Edward Alperson to the pleasing melodies of Raoul Kraushaar, used almost without reprieve to the point of characters whistling the tunes and having a reductive effect during moments of plotted suspense. The acting is uneven with Brady impressive in his scenes, brief but first-rate turns from Myron Healey and James Flavin, while Rhys Williams creates a defined part as a lay preacher; but Anne Bancroft's lines are too trite for her to make believable, Jim Davis is too little used, and fey Scott Marlowe is woefully miscast as a twitchy would-be gunfighter who eavesdrops during most of his scenes, a recurring event in the film since virtually all of the action follows upon someone overhearing private conversations, a tedious ploy following from unimaginative writing. Only a slender budget was available for the production made in southern California's high desert region near Apple Valley where a small set was created with notable contributions from Ernst Fegte for interior design and Howard Bristol for his detailed sets, able John Boyle being responsible for the camerawork in luminous Eastmancolor.
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