A greedy Missouri merchant overcharges the westbound settlers for goods and for passage to California while also stealing the Osages' supplies who consequently start attacking all passing wagon trains.
In Texas' Big Bend country, a young drifter is caught stealing food at the Davis ranch. The Davis clan and the hired hands are immediately suspicious of the young runaway. They nickname him Cooncat. They all suspect Cooncat of running from the law for some crime he committed but he claims to have only run-away from an abusive father who beat him. Nevertheless, the ranch hired hands rough him up until he admits he has committed a murder. Cooncat reveals he killed Jim Shell, the owner of a trading post because the man stole Cooncat's money. He claims that two drifters hiding in the nearby ruins of a house egged him on and even gave him a revolver to commit the murder. However, his recollection is hazy since he was hit over the head by the trading post owner right when he was about to shoot him. No one at the Davis ranch believes his story, except Meagan Davis, the daughter of the Davis patriarch. Cooncat offers to take the men to the trading post to see the body of the murdered owner. ...Written by
Filmed by Eagle-Lion right after THE SUNDOWNERS (1950) near some of the same Amarillo locations and with returning cast members Chill Wills, Jack Elam and the 'star', gawky teenager John Drew Barrymore. No Robert Preston to give some weight to the film, this time.
Story boils down to a boy, "Cooncat" (Barrymore) running away from an abusive home and witnessing a murder committed by Elam and Dave Kashner. Only the local ranch owner Horse Davis (Basil Ruysdael) and his family don't believe him. They think Cooncat's seeing ghosts because Cooncat's describing some men that were killed during a range war 15 years previously. Of course there are no ghosts. Cooncat actually did see the murder. I won't give away the ending but lets just say it too is as anti-climatic as the THE SUNDOWNERS was.
This also suffers from some of the same disjointed editing that that earlier film had suffered from, as well as Barrymore doing his silly facial grimaces while he overacts his part. And the way John Archer treats his bride-to-be Kristine Miller, needs to be seen to be believed. He spanks her on the bottom for shooting down a pan off the wall in order to prove a point. Then they kiss and make up like nothing happened. UN-REAL. Obviously some of the details in the script weren't worked out for the audience ahead of time.
Also filmed in Technicolor with nice scenic West Texas locations, it's worth a look but it's not a keeper, in my opinion.
4 out of 10
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