In Silver Lode, Dan Ballard is arrested by 4 Marshals for murder and theft but he denies the charges and searches for the real culprit even as the townsfolk start abandoning him.In Silver Lode, Dan Ballard is arrested by 4 Marshals for murder and theft but he denies the charges and searches for the real culprit even as the townsfolk start abandoning him.In Silver Lode, Dan Ballard is arrested by 4 Marshals for murder and theft but he denies the charges and searches for the real culprit even as the townsfolk start abandoning him.
SILVER LODE (Allan Dwan, 1954) ***1/2
What could easily have been just another low-budget Western oater or, worse still, the poor man's HIGH NOON (1952), is turned by excellent scripting (atypically the work of a woman!) and direction into a true gem of the genre during its golden age. In fact, the film wears its anti-Red Scare intentions proudly on its sleeve by actually naming its chief villain (Dan Duryea in formidable form) McCarthy and making him an outlaw posing as a fake U.S. Marshal! Reformed gunfighter hero John Payne (in his first of four movies for veteran director Dwan) has his 4th of July wedding (to local belle Lizabeth Scott) disrupted by the arrival in town of Duryea and his men (including Stuart Whitman and Harry Carey Jr.) claiming to have a warrant for his arrest for killing Duryea's brother and absconding with the sum of $20,000. So far so conventional plot-wise but what is remarkable here is the way that the film-makers chose to employ the townspeople who are constantly following the protagonists around the streets of Silver Lode, at first forcibly siding with Payne (to the point of holding Duryea et al at gunpoint) but, with time, being swayed by the latter's lies and an unfortunate series of events that lead them to believe Payne guilty of murdering their sheriff (Emile Meyer) and one of the marshals, as well as wounding Scott's hot-headed brother. Aiding Payne, apart from the unwavering Scott (of course), is his ex-flame, sultry saloon gal (Dolores Moran, the wife of producer Benedict Bogeaus and whose last film this proved to be) who spits one-liner put-downs to hero, villain and everyone in between; I really liked her character and, apparently, so did Dwan because he opted to close the film on the image of her running frantically clenching the all-important telegraphic confirmation (Duryea's men had intuitively cut the lines beforehand) of Payne's claims of innocence. However, in view of the film being a thinly-veiled allegory on the ongoing witch-hunts, it is a telling comment on the relative nature of truth that the girls had already won the day by forcing the gullible telegraph official to write down a false reply. The expected climactic confrontation between Payne and Duryea, then, takes place inside a bell tower with the latter's bullet ultimately ricocheting on himself in God-like retribution making for a doubly ironic ending to a film (beautifully shot in color by the great John Alton) that had held its audience entranced for all of 77 breathless minutes.
- Jan 14, 2009
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