Fugitive bank robber Joe Maybe steals the identity of a marshal and rides into a town whose judge asks Joe to act as town marshal but an old flame almost betrays his real identity forcing Joe to claim she's his wife.
Railroad surveyer Clay O'Mara goes after rustlers who murdered his father and brother. Along the way, he first arrests then teams up with outlaw Whitey Kincade, who helps Clay, only to see how long the tenderfoot lasts. Outwitting several attempts on his life engineered by the crooked lawyer who set up his family, O'Mara and a wounded Kincade face the gang. Kincade wanted to protect O'Mara and redeem himself, and goes down shooting.
"Ride Clear of Diablo" was another of the Audie Murphy series of "B-Plus" westerns released by Universal during the 50s and early 60s. Universal always populated the casts with their contract players and other familiar faces. They were well mounted little films usually running about 80 minutes and mostly shot in color.
The story in this film involves Clay O'Meara (Murphy) returning to town following the murder of his father and brother by unscrupulous lawyer Tom Meredith (William Pullen), crooked Sheriff Fred Kenyon (Paul Birch) and henchman Jed Ringer (Russell Johnson). To throw him off the trail, the unholy three blame the crime on known bad man Whitey Kincaid (Dan Duryea) and send O'Meara off to Diablo to bring him in knowing full well that he'll probably be killed by the gunman. Kincaid meanwhile takes a liking to O'Meara and against his better judgment, lends O'Meara a hand.
The sheriff's niece is engaged to Meredith but of course, falls in love with O'Meara. Ringer meantime, is planning a double-cross of the other two and then running off with saloon girl Kate (Abbe Lane).
Murphy essentially played the same one dimensional character in his series but was always aided by superior supporting casts. Duryea, playing his signature likeable villain role, is allowed to go way over the top by director Jesse Hibbs in this one (it's about that laugh). He was always better on the wrong side of the law and was always an asset to any movie that he appeared in. The beautiful Susan Cabot plays the standard helpless heroine role and Abbe Lane gets to sing a couple of forgettable songs.
Also in the cast are veteran western performers Jack Elam, Denver Pyle, Lane Bradford and Holly Bane.
Here's a little trivia with which to end my comments:
- Audie Murphy was the most decorated American soldier in WWII; - Susan Cabot died tragically at the hands of her son, actor Christopher Jones, in 1986; - Dan Duryea wound up on the TV soap "Peyton Place" just prior to his death in 1968; - Russell Johnson became famous as "The Professor" in TV's "Gilligan's Island"; - Abbe Lane was married to band leader Xavier Cugat at the time of this film.
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