Can Dare Rudd prove he is responsible enough to win the heart of Judy and also outwit the crooked saloon owner?Can Dare Rudd prove he is responsible enough to win the heart of Judy and also outwit the crooked saloon owner?Can Dare Rudd prove he is responsible enough to win the heart of Judy and also outwit the crooked saloon owner?
Also known as "Hell Town" (which is the title with the version I saw), the film presents Wayne in an unusual role, that of the aptly named Dare, "a wild and crazy fellow" as his cousin Tom (John Mack Brown) calls him. Dare happens into Tom's home state of Wyoming looking for work, and not particular how he gets it.
An opening scene sets up the character, as Dare and his comic-relief buddy Dink (Syd Saylor) show up in the middle of a gun battle between two groups of strangers.
"Which side you favor?" Dare asks.
"Which side's winning?" Dink answers, thinking of his stomach.
Dare and Dink would just as soon blow out of town after Tom hands over $100 in travelling funds, until Dare gets a look at Tom's girl Judy (Marsha Hunt). "Hell Town" then becomes an involving duel of personalities between Dare and the upright Tom, who offers Dare plenty of opportunities to mess up and lose his claim on Judy.
"Hell Town" benefits from a solid cast, funny dialogue, and able direction from Charles Barton, who knew how to make a genre film work. (His best-remembered film combines two genres, "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.") Dink is always trying to sell lightning rods, while Dare is out to prove himself the best poker player west of the Mississippi. Neither are successful, but it's fun watching them try and fail again.
The conflict involves a gang of cattle rustlers and their boss, who works on Dare trying to get him to switch sides. Because the film runs under an hour, there's little chance to develop any tension regarding what Dare will do, and the ending is downright perfunctory in most particulars. But you do get a chance to see a nifty poker- playing scene where cousin Tom steps in and helps Dare handle a tense situation, the film's highlight.
The rest of the film is pretty good, too, and represents a chance to see Wayne play a kind of ne'er-do-well. He banters enjoyably with Saylor while showing ample nerve with Hunt: "Since you're not already spoken for, I guess I'll just marry you." Wayne would play stolid good guys, and hard cases, but here is a rare chance to see him as likable rogue, a direction his career might have gone if not for John Ford.
- Dec 29, 2016