During the Rif War in Morocco, the French Foreign Legion's outpost of Tarfa is threatened by Khalif Hussein's tribes but Sergeant Mike Kincaid devises a plan of survival until the arrival of French reinforcements.
A cattle baron takes in an orphaned boy and raises him, causing his own son to resent the boy. As they get older the resentment festers into hatred, and eventually the real son frames his stepbrother for fathering an illegitimate child that is actually his, seeing it as an opportunity to get his half-brother out of the way so he can have his father's empire all to himself. Written by
I got a story to tell - a yarn about cow country, cow punchers and men. I was workin' for the Strobie Ranch, a trade of worn leather and saddle blisters and brandin' irons. A trade with some song, some fun and some luck. It was as good a job as a man could ask for. Lonely sometimes and cold - so much distance you'd have thought you'd never get back - but for me, a young kid, it was a fine time. Memories are mostly good. You're up on top of the world where the air is clean and thin ...
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"Vengeance Valley" (1951) is not just a great title for a western, but a well-made, intelligent feature that should please Burt Lancaster and Robert Walker fans. A cattle baron (Ray Collins) takes in an orphaned boy (Owen Daybright) and raises him. His own son (Lee Strobie) is about the same age. Although Lee resents Owen they generally get along and share a lot of coming of age adventures on the ranch. But as they mature Lee's (Robert Walker) resentment causes him to become a slacker and the classic prodigal son. After a long absence he returns with a wife, appears to have cleaned up his act, and reconciles with his father.
But Lee's past includes a girl named Lily that he got pregnant. Owen covers for him, but this causes Lee to resent his stepbrother even more. When he suspects that his father's ranch and his new wife are slipping away from him, he sets up Owen to be killed by Lily's two brothers. Although this prodigal son-Cain and Abel stuff is hardly original, the two stars are excellent in their respective parts. Lancaster reins in his excesses and gives a nice controlled performance, with his suppressed energy just visible enough to give Owen a nice dimensionality.
Walker in convincing as a two-faced villain, still motivated by childhood jealousy but able to conceal it from everyone but the audience. Walker is relatively forgotten today, but was the 1940's version of James Dean; although his looks and style are more like a young Robert Vaughn.
When not occupied with its melodramatic story, "Vengeance Valley" has the look of an extremely well-produced documentary, going into great detail about the process of a spring roundup and providing a lot of very scenic backgrounds. A ranch hand named Hewie (Carleton Carpenter) provides an informative voice-over. The film features some great cattle scenes, a lot of good riding sequences, and a couple well staged fights. Watch for an early appearance by young Hugh O'Brian-just a few years away from starring in television's "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp".
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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