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In 1863, having escaped from a rock-quarry prison in Salt Lake, six inmates led by convicted murderer Pete Black take over a small wagon train headed by preacher Jacob Karns. Tensions and hardships grow as the travelers continue to trek toward California across dry, desolate country.Written by
dinky-4 of Minneapolis
But Jacob, the grave isn't deep enough!
It's isn't just a rule of the church...it's the law of the open trails. Graves must be six feet deep and heaped with stones to protect it from wild animals. There must be a cross. I can't leave my son like this, Jacob!
All right, then stay here and bury him yourself!
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Blacklisted screenwriter Alvah Bessie, one of the Hollywood Ten penned the story for Passage West. Had he been blacklisted for bad writing on seeing this one rather than political opinions he might not have obtained martyrdom. This is a rather unreal story of six escaped convicts who inflict themselves on a wagon train bound for California headed by preacher Dennis O'Keefe. The leader of the convicts is John Payne whose career path was like Dick Powell's completely sheds his boyish crooning image for being a complete tough guy.
Unfortunately unlike Dick Powell this was not a Murder My Sweet success for him. Payne did many interesting roles in B films during the Fifties, but this was not one of them.
Dennis O'Keefe who was something of a raffish fellow also just does not ring true as a frontier preacher. He and Payne have a rivalry of sorts over Arleen Whelan who is scheduled to marry preacher O'Keefe after the journey is over starts reassessing things with the sight of a shirtless Payne sporting a very hairy chest. In complete contrast to his earlier days when 20th Century Fox had him apparently shave it.
Some of the convicts include Frank Faylen, Richard Rober, and in his farewell performance Dooley Wilson, the famous Sam of Casablanca as an escaped slave who was in prison apparently for just that. Also Mary Beth Hughes has an interesting role as a saloon entertainer along with the preacher's wagon train. She provides a note of wisdom occasionally.
Pine-Thomas who produced some interesting B films for Paramount came up very short with this one.
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