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The year is 1877. Johnny Ketchum, son of notorious gunfighter Ace Ketchum, seeks the man who killed his mother. His search brings him into contact with (1) Deputy Mace Fenton, who wants to collect the $10,000 reward on Ace Ketchum's head, (2) wealthy landowner Don Pedro Fortuna and his daughter Pilar; and (3) Juan Morales, a Mexican bandit. Before finishing his quest, Johnny finds love, learns family secrets, and fights in a battle. Written by
dinky-4 of Minneapolis
Produced near the tail-end of the western cycle, this is a handsomely photographed movie that -- in its many outdoor scenes -- makes good use of the wide-screen process. It also has a rousing musical score, though at times this score drifts too far into modern territory. However, the movie's weakened by the miscasting of its two top-billed actors. Russ Tamblyn simply isn't "tough" and "hard" enough for the kind of character he's asked to play, (such was also the case with Bobby Darin in "Gunfight at Abilene"), and Irish-born Kieron Moore can't seem to find the right accent for the half-Texan, half-Mexican character he's asked to play. (On the other hand, Fernando Rey is just right as a wealthy landowner.) What's more, there seem to be too many plot elements squeezed into this script. You have Tamblyn and his outlaw father, you have a Mexican bandit, you have Fernando Rey and his daughter, you have Tamblyn and the daughter, you have the bandit versus Rey, you have the bandit versus the outlaw father, you have ... Well, this is one of those movies in which it's hard to determine the key relationship, the key conflict. Something leaner and less cluttered would have been preferable.
A small point of interest: a bare-chested Kieron Moore winds up being staked out in the desert, spreadeagle style, and left to die. This time, though, a strip of wet rawhide is tied around his neck. As the rawhide shrinks in the hot sun, it will slowly strangle him. A similar fate befell another Moore in the movies. In "Gold of the Seven Saints," Roger Moore was also staked out, but in that case the wet rawhide strips were tied around his chest. Kieron was about 40 years old at this time and he still looks in good shape, physique wise, but one wonders: why was it necessary for the bad guys to remove his shirt in order to tie that rawhide strip around their victim's neck?
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