Bandits target a gold miner and his granddaughter in 19th century South Africa. Robert Gunnar is the bandit with a heart of gold, who is after Price's cache of gold, but falls in love with ... See full summary »
Bandits target a gold miner and his granddaughter in 19th century South Africa. Robert Gunnar is the bandit with a heart of gold, who is after Price's cache of gold, but falls in love with Diana Ivarson, who has hair of gold (bleach). Written by
This is a vastly inferior remake of YELLOW SKY (1948) – with the ghost town itself now becoming “Yellow Rock”. Apart from the fact that it features Vincent Price in a rare non-horror role from this period (he did appear in a few Westerns early in his career), the film’s most unusual aspect is the fact that it trades the original’s Death Valley landscape for the equally forbidding one of South Africa (with stock footage of wild animals, and Zulus instead of Indians); incidentally, I recently taped another African Western – UNTAMED (1955), with Tyrone Power and Susan Hayward – off Italian TV, which is a title that often turns up in this guise but I’d never managed to check out so far.
Anyway, THE JACKALS duplicates the classic original scene-for-scene and virtually line-by-line; in fact, Lamar Trotti (who adapted the W.R. Burnett source novel to the screen in 1948) is credited as co-writer here as well, even if he had died way back in 1952! The other basic difference between the two versions – other than some ineffective name changes (for instance, the black-clad villain here becomes Dandy rather than Dude) – is that the remake is in color…though the Public Domain print I watched was so faded that day-for-night scenes are blatantly exposed as such! So far so good but, then, the rest of the cast is an anonymous bunch (though Diana Ivarson is O.K., certainly cute and, if anything, even more obviously masculine than Anne Baxter from YELLOW SKY); also, for whatever reason, the character played by Henry Morgan in the original is omitted altogether from the narrative this time around (and, amusingly, the actor taking over John Russell’s womanizing cowboy role looks and sounds just like Oliver Reed!). And, worse still, they’re all saddled with intrusive Australian accents!
As for Price, though top-billed, his part is no bigger than James Barton’s in the 1948 film and he turns in a hammy performance, as was his fashion; for the record, he would return to the genre twice more in the next couple of years – both equally undistinguished films – MORE DEAD THAN ALIVE (1968; available as a DVD rental) and the Elvis Presley vehicle THE TROUBLE WITH GIRLS (1969; which I watched last year in tribute to the 30th anniversary from The King’s death). By the way, I should mention that the film is accompanied by a weird, inappropriate and frankly awful score. Though director Webb had previously helmed three reportedly efficient entries in the genre, this turned out to be a lackluster venture – shabby and lifeless where YELLOW SKY had been stylish and exciting – and it’s small wonder that it proved to be his penultimate work.
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