A boy haunted by nightmares about the night his entire family was murdered is brought up by a neighboring family in the 1880s. He falls for his lovely adoptive sister but his nasty adoptive brother and mysterious uncle want him dead.
In the 1890s, during a harsh northern California winter, members of a ranching family are squabbling among themselves while 2 of the oldest sons go hunting for a panther that is killing their livestock.
Nick Cochran, an American in exile in Macao, has a chance to restore his name by helping capture an international crime lord. Undercover, can he mislead the bad guys and still woo the handsome singer/petty crook, Julie Benson?
Josef von Sternberg,
After his family is murdered in the 1880s, orphan Jeb Rand is raised by the Callum family on their nearby horse ranch. He remains haunted by this childhood trauma in a recurring nightmare of flashing spurs and confinement inside a trap door as his family is slaughtered. Widow Callum does her best to make Jeb feel loved as he is growing up, but the young man stubbornly maintains a sense of his own identity. While he has great affection for his foster-sister Thor, his relationship with her brother Adam is tenuous at best, especially when Jeb blames him for shooting a colt that he was riding. Although Mrs. Callum blames the incident on deer hunters, she is aware that the it was actually the attempted murder of the youngster by her brother-in-law Grant, a shadowy figure who, for vague reasons, is determined to harm Jeb. Jeb loses a coin flip with Adam, and becomes the designated family volunteer to fight in the Spanish-American War. Jeb returns a hero, but does not find happiness. ...Written by
This is not so much a Western as a film noir that happens to be set in New Mexico around the turn of the century. Dame Judith Anderson steals the film as both the catalyst of all that happens and, in many ways, its hero. Dean Jagger is marvelous as the villainous lawman who cannot leave well enough alone. Harry Carey Jr. scores with a memorable portrayal of a well-meaning milquetoast manipulated by Jagger.
The photography and editing (James Wong Howe and Christian Nyby) are topnotch film noir. Alan Hale (Sr.) is perfect as the wry gambler who recognizes Mitchum's talent and woos him as a partner. Mitchum does a fine job as the emotionally paralyzed Jeb who is basically decent but with a busted emotional compass, he allows himself to be led by the fates. Although I'm not normally a fan of the sleepy-eyed and laconic Mitchum, I thought his signature traits were used to excellent effect here, and well explained by the trauma that eats him apart so much inside that he is unwilling to stand up for himself. Teresa Wright is stunning as Mitchum's foster-sister-turned-object-of-lust-turned-true-love-tuned-would-be-executioner-turned-true love again. What a woman!
One thing that differentiates this 1947 film in my book as a noir not a western is that the two main women are anything but passive -- and even more so -- ANYTHING BUT madonnas or whores. They are unafraid to fire guns or stand up to militias. But they will fulfill what is in their hearts even when it means societal disapproval or death.
Although the plot is full of holes, the storytelling is excellent enough to overcome it. Great pacing too -- a really fun ride.
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