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The town of Warlock is plagued by a gang of thugs, leading the inhabitants to hire Clay Blaisdell, a famous gunman, to act as marshal. When Blaisdell appears, he is accompanied by his friend Tom Morgan, a club-footed gambler who is unusually protective of Blaisdell's life and reputation. However, Johnny Gannon, one of the thugs who has reformed, volunteered to accept the post of official deputy sheriff in rivalry to Blaisdell; and a woman arrives in town accusing Blaisdell and Morgan of having murdered her fiancé. The stage is set for a complex set of moral and personal conflicts. Written by
David Levene <D.S.Levene@durham.ac.uk>
Two important roles were played by actors going very much against type. The often strong, tough, macho Anthony Quinn here is cast as a hesitant, even weak man. Tom Drake, who once played sensitive composer Richard Rodgers and while at MGM specialized in nice, clean-cut "boy next door" roles, here is cast as the chief villain, the evil boss of the vicious "San Pablo" gang. See more »
At around 1:12:20, Fonda is made to draw his gun, when he goes to put it back in the holster, he clearly misses the holster and gets it right on the second try. As a gunfighter he was obviously better at getting his gun out of the holster than putting it back. See more »
Rock of ages comes to Warlock in Dmytryk's excellent adult Western.
Warlock is a small town suffering from visits by a gang of thugs led by Abe McQuown. The honest townsfolk meet and decide to hire infamous gunslinger Clay Blaisedell to act as a marshal. Blaisdell, aided by his trusty companion Tom Morgan, proceeds to clean up the town and promptly takes control of the gambling and dance parlour. But things are rarely straight forward in a town of this type, one of the thugs (Johnny Gannon) decides to reform himself and takes on the role of legal sheriff. Things are further complicated when a woman arrives in town proclaiming that Blaisedell and Morgan killed the love of her life! This coupled with the fact that McQuown and his thugs are plotting destructive revenge, means that Warlock and it's array of complex characters are heading for judgement: one way or another.
The basic plot sounds like nothing out of the ordinary, the tough gunslinger with a reputation hired to clean up a town has been done a fair few times, with varying degrees of success. What lifts this Edward Dmytryk directed (and produced) Western above other films of its ilk is that it goes deeper than most of those other genre pieces. Blaisedell may be a fearsome gunslinger but we are at a time when a new breed of faster and more thuggish cowboys exist, but his very being is crucial to the number of events that transpire in Warlock. Here all central characters are multi-layered, there is a lot going on here that begs the utmost attention, tragedy hangs heavy with its looming presence, and Dmytryk threads all the story strands together with brilliant results.
Adapted by Robert Alan Aurthur from Oakley Hall's novel, Warlock boasts three excellent male lead performances and a firing on all cylinders supporting cast. Henry Fonda (Blaisedell), Richard Widmark (Gannon) and Anthony Quinn (Tom Morgan) are superb, while Dorothy Malone, Dolores Michaels, Tom Drake, DeForest Kelly, Frank Gorshin (sadly uncredited) and Wallace Ford come up trumps with excellent shows for totally important characters. The only gripe I can come up with is that I would have liked a bit more use of the Utah location courtesy of Joseph MacDonald's Cinemascope Technicolor; but since this story is primarily set within the confines of Warlock the town, one can be a touch forgiving.
During the last few years I have spent a lot of time revisiting the Western genre, and I have been rewarded with a ream of excellent adult pieces by the likes of Anthony Mann, Henry King and Budd Boetticher. Few of them are as undervalued, and maybe as forgotten, as this first class effort from all involved, it's a must see for any serious Western fan. 9/10
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