Jim Harvey is hired to guard a small wagon train as it makes its way west. The train is attacked by Indians and Harvey, hoping to persuade Aguila, the chief, to call off the attack due to ... See full summary »
In the mid-19th century, Senator William J. Tadlock leads a group of settlers overland in a quest to start a new settlement in the Western US. Tadlock is a highly principled and demanding taskmaster who is as hard on himself as he is on those who have joined his wagon train. He clashes with one of the new settlers, Lije Evans, who doesn't quite appreciate Tadlock's ways. Along the way, the families must face death and heartbreak and a sampling of frontier justice when one of them accidentally kills a young Indian boy. Written by
Considering the considerable cast, I expected more...though it's not bad.
This western is very unusual in that it features three top leading men--Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum and Richard Widmark. Now you'd think with all this high-octane masculinity and acting that this would be a terrific film, well, you'd be wrong. While it isn't a bad film, it does suffer from a thoroughly adequate script--one that never seems to deliver the goods.
Douglas plays an ex-senator bent on starting the first white colony in Oregon in 1848. The problem is that he's not exactly 'Mr. Personality'--and his abrasive and autocratic ways rub everyone in the wagon train wrong. Can he get them all to his promised land or will the folks ditch him and make for California? Tune in and see.
For the most part, this is a pretty ordinary drama about settling the West. As for Douglas, he overacts more than usual (and what's with that whipping scene?!?!). Widmark's character is inconsistent and underwritten. The only lead who comes off well is Mitchum--as a weary Kit Carson-type. Aside from being pretty ordinary and predictable, the film did have a few pluses. There was nice cinematography and as a history teacher, I appreciated how they showed lots of mules, oxen and cows pulling the wagons--whereas most films only show horses (a mistake). But this isn't enough to raise it above mediocrity.
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