The Brass Legend (1956)
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"The Brass Legend" opens with Sheriff Wade Adams (Hugh O'Brien) watching young Clay Gipson (Donald MacDonald of "Two Guns and a Badge") practicing his fast draw. Clay's target is a wanted poster of notorious outlaw Tris Hatten (Raymond Burr) who has a $5-thousand dollar reward on his head. Later, Clay's father, widower Tom Gipson (Robert Burton of "The Slime People"), rides back to the Gipson ranch where Wade is supervising Clay's target practice with a white horse that he bought from a Yaqui horse trader. Clay names the horse after its trader Sinoye and saddles him up to ride. Needless to say, Clay is very proud of his horse and spends a lot of time exercising his new Cayuse. While Clay is off riding, Wade and Clay's father clash on his future. It seems that Wade and Tom's grown-up daughter Linda (Nancy Gates of "Magnificent Roughnecks") plan to get married. Tom wants Wade to turn in his badge and become a partner in his ranch. Linda also wants her future husband to quit being a lawman. Temporarily, Wade and Tom are at loggerheads over this issue because Wade has no intention of giving up his job.
Meanwhile, everybody mistakenly believes that Tris Hatten is long gone and dead until he turns up unexpectedly in the Mexican part of town and sends Sanchez (Vincent Padula of "The Three Outlaws") out to contact saloon hostess Millie Street (TV actress Reba Tassell) about seeing him. The sight of Hatten alarms Sanchez because he had heard that Hatten was dead. Millie hires a horse and buggy and rides out to meet Hatten. At the same time that Millie is driving off to rendezvous with Hatten, Clay spots her and hides. Afterward, he follows to Sanchez's place and spots Hatten. Clay hightails it back to the ranch. On the way home, he crosses trails with Wade. Wade finds it difficult to believe that Tris Hatten is not only alive but also in the town of Apache Bend. Back at Sanchez's place, Hatten sheds his gun and shell belt and makes out with Millie on the bed. Wade storms in with his gun drawn and takes Hatten prisoner. When Hatten in handcuffs tries to resist Wade, our hero slugs him over the head and deposits his unconscious bulk in Millie's rental wagon and orders her to drive him into town. News spreads like wildfire about Hatten's capture. Initially, the villain thought that Millie turned him in but he knows better later on after he thinks about it. When the editor of the local newspaperThe Bladegets the story from Wade, Wade refuses to name his informant. When Tom pries the truth out of Claywho promised Wade that he wouldn't say a thingTom goes to the newspaper editor and they publish all the facts. A gunman ambushes Clay and the boy manages to pull through despite a severe wound. Hatten's former associates try to kill Wade in a saloon shooting. Wade jails the man who shot Clay, but this fellow smuggles in a derringer and Hatten escapes. Wade and Hatten shoot it out on horseback and Hatten dies grateful that he won't swing from the gallows.
Oswald does an outstanding job with this black and white western. The performances, especially Raymond Burr as the villain, are uniformly excellent. The following year Oswald helmed another Spartan western entitled "Fury at Showdown."
For a Western that follows a fairly standard formula, director Gerd Oswald provides some interesting scenes that were never staples of the genre. Like young Tom Gipson (Robert Burton) getting shot off his horse, or how about that fancy showdown in the saloon when the Sheriff takes out all three Barlow brothers? That scene came off as totally realistic, vindicating Addams' tarnished reputation in bringing outlaw Tris Hatten (Burr) to justice in the first place. Even the ending was done differently, instead of your standard showdown in the middle of a dusty street, you have both antagonists riding toward each other like jousting knights, but with guns blazing instead. There seemed to be just the right amount of satisfaction in Hatten's dying breath as he figures he outlived the hangman.
But you know, I keep wondering about one scene. How many takes do you think it required for Burr to find his mark when he threw his holstered gun against the wall?
The Brass Legend has Sheriff O'Brian getting a tip from young Donald MacDonald that notorious outlaw Raymond Burr is in the area and keeping company with a lewd saloon woman Rebecca Welles. Before they get down to business O'Brian has the drop on Burr.
Well by God this is not according to the code of the west where you're supposed to face the bad guy down and maybe get killed. Bad enough that Welles believes it and makes no secret about it, but half the town thinks like she does and thinks that Burr got a raw deal.
Further they don't like that O'Brian tried to keep young MacDonald's name out of it thinking that one of Burr's friends might want to shoot the snitch even if he's 12 years old. Sure enough a particular low life specimen does.
O'Brian is a stalwart hero in the mold of Wyatt Earp whom he just started playing on television. Burr is always an interesting villain and Welles as the vengeful saloon woman is fascinating.
The Brass Legend a good B western, fans of O'Brian and Burr will not be disappointed.
Clay Gipson is a 12 year-old who happens to see the wanted killer, Tris Hatten (Raymond Burr). When he tells the sheriff, Addams is able to capture the baddie. Oddly, many of the townsfolk seem to feel sorry for Hatten--even though he's killed several people! As I said, it's a very stupid town!! So, the trick is to bring Hatten to trial and convict him--while at the same time Addams and Gipson remain alive to see it! But, the conspiracy of stupids is strong!!
The biggest weakness of this film is how fickle and stupid the townspeople were--a bit too stupid if you ask me. I also thought a few of the characters were ridiculous--such as Hatten's girlfriend (???). Clay's father wasn't much better. But, O'Brien does a nice job as does Burr--who is always great in baddie roles. On balance, worth seeing but far from a must-see picture.
The acting is as lethargic as the dialog is cliched. The characters are one-dimensional and with one or two exceptions (such as Burr's jaded killer, Tassell's ruthless saloon girl), the playing lacks sparkle, although it's nice to see Russell Sinpson as Pop Jackson (one of the jailers) and Norman Leavitt as a deputy who even covers out hero in a saloon shoot-out.
Production values are very moderate, and credits undistinguished. In fact there is a great deal of very obvious day-for-night shooting!
The dialog adds nothing, and the actors can't save the plot and keep the viewer's interest.
By comparison, "Plan 9 from Outer Space" is at least humorous and entertaining. Would love to see this served on a platter to Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo.
Don't waste your time on this when there are good westerns out there worth watching.