Actor Richard Carlson helmed this thoroughly ordinary Louis L'Amour western "Kid Rodelo," with Don Murray, Janet Leigh, and Oscar-winner Broderick Crawford. This straightforward, spartan saga concerns survival of the fittest on the frontier. Appropriately enough, lean, handsome Murray is cast the virtuous good guy, while burly, gravel voiced Crawford plays a treacherous outlaw dastard. Eventually,they all wind up on the trail in search of $50-thousand in gold with remorseless Yaqui Indians shadowing them like vultures. The prison hires the Yaquis to bring back the escaped prisoners. Unlike the Rangers, the Yaquis don't have to worry about the same jurisdictional issues that the Rangers must contend with when crossing the border into Mexico. Kid Rodelo (Don Murray of "From Hell to Texas")is released from prison after serving a year inside Yuma Territorial Prison, while villainous Joe Harbin (Broderick Crawford of "All the King's Men")has ten years to sweat out because he shot his partner. Meantime, Harbin's accomplice Thomas Reese (José Nieto of "Dr. Zhivago") has a plan to break out of Yuma. He has stolen two wooden matches from the kitchen. Harbin and he toil in the stone quarry where they hammer holes in the rocks to insert dynamite to blast the rocks. They plant some extra sticks of dynamite and all hell cuts loose. Harbin and Reese take the warden as a hostage to make good their escape. They light out in hot pursuit of the Kid who has caught a ride without another westerner. Link (Richard Carlson) and his girlfriend Nora (Janet Leigh of "Psycho") are waiting for the Kid as he trudges on foot down the trail from the prison. Link wants the money, too, and he has hired another gunslinger to help him.
This threadbare oater was lensed on location in rugged Spain. Strangely enough, the pinch-penny producers filmed it in black & white. This Paramount Pictures release seems unusual because most westerns by that time were photographed in color, even those old timer oaters that producer A.C. Lyles made. "Badman's Territory" scenarist Jack Natteford doesn't depart too drastically from the source material, but the characters largely amount to stereotypes. Like most L'Amour heroes, Kid Rodelo knows his way around the desert, particularly the whereabouts of water holes. Carlson and Natteford take advantage of his environmental familiarity, such as knowing about the flora and fauna to keep them alive. The performances are okay, while Leigh appears as little more than window dressing. She does do one important thing at the end. This gritty western tries to imitate the Spaghetti westerns, but Carlson imparts little color or charisma. The Johnny Douglas soundtrack is pedestrian. I caught this sagebrusher on Netflix streaming.
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