A stranger in a Western cattle-town behaves with remarkable self-assurance, establishing himself as a man to be reckoned with. The reason appears with his stock: a herd of sheep, which he ...
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A stranger in a Western cattle-town behaves with remarkable self-assurance, establishing himself as a man to be reckoned with. The reason appears with his stock: a herd of sheep, which he intends to graze on the range. The horrified inhabitants decide to run him out at all costs. Written by
David Levene <D.S.Levene@durham.ac.uk>
In 1957, there was enough phony gun smoke on the screen to choke Superman. Most Westerns were filled with cardboard characters, unimaginative stories, and predictable showdowns. Too bad this under-rated little entry got lost in the shuffle, because it's both highly original and genuinely humorous, with an expert cast, a great script, and some magnificent Colorado landscapes.
What really distinguishes this oater is Ford's droll character (Mr. Sweet!) and the film's sprightly dialogue, neither of which sounds like you've yawned through it all before. In fact, Sweet is one of the few original cowboy creations of the time. He's a sly dog, so you never know what he'll do next, which keeps the audience riveted. Then too, Ford plays the part beautifully, his typical low-key manner making the many clever twists all the more surprising. Watch how adroitly Sweet wakes up the sleepy town at movie's outset. It amounts to a real head-turning treat.
So why do cattlemen hate sheep, the crux of the story. I don't think the screenplay explains, but it's because sheep don't just graze, they eat the roots, killing the forage, which leaves nothing for the cattle. So you know sheepman Glenn Ford is in for a passel of trouble when he brings his flock to cattle country. And trouble he gets in the form of slickster Leslie Nielsen (before Nielsen showed his own comedic talents).
And whose inspiration was it to cast the very un-frontier-like Shirley McLaine in the girl role. She's just wacky enough to make her pairing with Sweet seem natural. Then too, there're those two impossibly colorful characters-- the sneaky Edgar Buchanan at his slipperiest and the half-clown, half-thug Mickey Shaughnessy at his schizo best.
What really surprises me is that this little gem came from Western-averse MGM, which always seemed to be above such common fare as horse operas. Still, the movie does benefit from that studio's emphasis on production values-- even the outdoor sets are hard to detect.
My only complaint-- the two shootouts look like unimaginative sops to convention. It's as if the writers had to surrender to what someone thought the audience expected. Too bad. Anyway, don't let the movie's relative obscurity fool you. It's one of those sleepers that sometimes wandered away from the Dream Factory only to get lost in the crowd. Nonetheless, it's still well worth a look-see, even 50 years later.
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