Hannah Brockway, daughter of the leading citizen of Prairie Dog, prosperous insurance man Nathan Brockway, is engaged to be married to Dr. Sam Martin, but she meets and falls in love with Ben Dembrow, the youngest son of outlaw leader Kirk Dembrow. Ben, unwilling to lead the life of his father and two brothers, Frank and Cash, has taken a new name, and he and Hannah are married. But the suspicions of the townspeople hound him and he is tried for a crime he did not commit. His father and brothers rescue him from the courtroom at gunpoint, and the disillusioned Ben joins his family, taking Hannah with him. Months of fleeing from the law, and the approaching birth of a child impels Hannah to send for Martin, who has never stopped loving her. Martin takes her back to her family home and the baby is born. But Ben kidnaps the child in an effort to make Hannah rejoin him, and Martin and Ben soon face a shoot-out against each other.Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Renegades" is somewhat of a precursor to the so-called adult westerns of the 1950's in that it examines the characters of the leads in minute detail. It is better than many of the later adult westerns in that there is also several magnificently staged action sequences including the standard one by this time of horses leaping over a cliff into a body of water. This stunt first gained notoriety as a result of its use in the popular Republic feature "Dark Command" in which a whole team of horses jump into the water from high above. It was one of the reasons for the close scrutiny today when animals are used in movies to make sure none are injured or mistreated.
"Renegades" features Evelyn Keyes, whose main attraction at the time was her blazon red hair prominent because "Renegades" was one of the few westerns of the day filmed in glorious Technicolor, and song and dance man Larry Parks, whose promising screen career tragically came to an end during the McCarthy witch hunt. Keyes and Parks would team up the same year for their greatest success together "The Jolson Story."
Also featured in "Renegades" is cowboy regular Edgar Buchanan. He gives one of his best performances ever as one mean-hearted daddy, Kirk Dembrow, head of the Dembrow clan of outlaws, using the Good Book to justify his evil. His macho philosophy is: if you got Debrow blood in you, then you got to be mean to the bone; and the Debrow's take care of their own. His Kirk Dembrow performance was perhaps an inspiration for Charles Kemper's Uncle Shiloh Clegg in "Wagon Master," and Donald Pleasence's Preacher Quint in "Will Penny."
Forrest Tucker is barely recognizable in the nondescript role of Frank Dembrow. Eddy Waller shows why he was later chosen to play Nugget Clark in the Allan Rocky Lane western series. He already is virtually Nugget as stagecoach driver Davy Lane, though he doesn't quite have the Nugget Cark look yet. The good doctor Sam Martin is played somewhat blandly by Willard Parker.
One reason "Renegades" has been neglected by western fans has to do with the first part of the film. Director George Sherman and the writers spend too much time emphasizing the sweetness and light of Prairie Dog's leading citizen, Dr. Parker. He is virtually worshiped and can do no wrong. Once the viewer is hit over the head several times with this messiah image, enters one Ben Taylor (Parks), who not only challenges Dr. Parker's monopoly of the town's affection but who also proceeds to steal Dr. Parker's fiancé, Hannah Brockway (Keyes), from under the good doctor's stethoscope.
Lo and behold Ben Taylor turns out to be Ben Dembrow, one of the infamous Dembrow gang currently terrorizing the town and its environs. While the doc is caring for Ben's mother, played with élan by Virgina Brissac, the sheriff and his posse arrest Ben, since he is the only one of his family that the law enforcers can get their hands on, and lock him in jail. Everybody wants to hang Ben except Dr. Parker and his fiancé, Hannah. Ben does receive somewhat of a fair trial after the doctor intervenes, but just before the verdict is delivered, the Dembrow gang take over the courtroom and free Ben. Ben now becomes the outlaw the town expected him to be. Only he also takes Hannah with him when he leaves. Ultimately, Hannah gives birth to Ben's child which muddies the water even more. There is a creditable resolution to the story, but it doesn't come easy.
If the viewer is willing to watch through the drivel of the first twenty minutes or so, the film becomes a treat for western fans. George Sherman keeps it all moving with action aplenty.
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