Blaise Starrett is a rancher at odds with homesteaders when outlaws hold up the small town. The outlaws are held in check only by their notorious leader, but he is diagnosed with a fatal wound and the town is a powder keg waiting to blow.
The screenplay was written by Philip Yordan, who also wrote: Johnny Guitar (1954), The Man from Laramie (1955), The Bravados (1958) and Broken Lance (1954), for which he won an Oscar. See more »
None of the horses has a winter coat of hair. See more »
I'm through being reasonable. I told Crane what would happen if he strung that wire.
Dan, Starret's Foreman:
Blaise, we've pulled over some hard hills together, and I've rode behind you all the way. But a wire fence is a poor excuse to make a widow out of Crane's wife. What have you been thinking about all winter - Crane's barb wire fence, or Crane's pretty wife, Helen?
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Underrated Western with some genuinely unusual features. As a long-time fan of Westerns, I've seen only a handful hardy enough to film in the mountains in winter. But the results here are riveting, especially in grainy b&w. Those bleak snow-scapes with the horses trying to plow across are a rare glimpse of trail blazing before the 4-lane highway. The toll on man and beast must have been excruciating. Those memorable scenes are, I believe, the movie's high point, and to the credit of the producers, I could spot only one minor exterior set to break the continuity. Then too, the weather-beaten town looks authentic as heck. I just wish IMDb had been able to identify the locations so I'll know where not to winter hike.
Unusual too is the absence of a good-guy hero. The two leads, Ryan and Ives, are both strong characters, but with a wobbly moral compass that wavers somewhere between low- down meaness and high-type nobility. In short, you never know what they're going to do. That makes for two interesting non-stereotypes to drive the plot. I expect one reason the film was passed over by critics is because of sexpot Tina Louise as an audience draw. Known more for her Amazonian measurements than her acting skills, she nevertheless does well enough here, while watching her get bounced around the dance floor, hair flying, is not anything you'll see her Ginger do on TV's Gilligan's Island. Speaking of vintage TV, there's Ozzie & Harriet's elder son David as a good kid who's fallen in with the wrong crowd, and a teenage Venetia Stevenson who looks and sounds more like a malt shop than a frontier town. Somehow, you just know they'll end up together.
Nonetheless, it's a payday for a lot of sturdy Hollywood veterans in supporting parts, including the always dependable Dabbs Greer and my favorite plug-ugly bad guy Jack Lambert. Then too, maybe you can figure out what Elisha Cook Jr.'s role is supposed to be, but who cares, just seeing the little fall-guy resonates across a couple of memorable Hollywood decades. And who better to manage scriptwriter Phillip Yordan's parade of shifting alliances than a central European like Andre de Toth, whose 1947 Western Ramrod remains another hidden gem. Anyhow, no movie that pits the steely Robert Ryan against the immovable Burl Ives can afford to be passed up, especially when stretched across an unusually polar landscape that still gives me the cold shivers.
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