Stranger On Horseback (1955)
Surprisingly short western at 65 minutes for a Joel McCrea oater from director Jacques Tourneur.
While no where near the best from either of these two it does offer a slightly different style western from a story by Louis L’Amour.
McCrea rides into a new town as the film opens. Passing by a funeral he is soon greeted by John Carradine who seems to take a shine to anyone with power. McCrea is the circuit judge who is making his rounds and isn’t about to take anything from Carradine that might be looked upon as a bribe. Be it a drink or the best room in the local hotel.
What he does want to know is why the man being buried was the victim of a gunfight and the reason there hasn’t been a trial to determine if the victim was shot in self defense or was it a murder.
As is the case with many other westerns the killer is the son of a powerful land baron who owns practically everything in the town. The son is played by Kevin McCarthy and John McIntire stars here as the father. McIntire expects to have a talk with McCrea and settle everything nice and quietly.
McCrea who has more or less made a career out of playing righteous characters will have none of it. He calmly attempts to put McCarthy under arrest and when that doesn’t work a right hook will. This leads us to a low budget Rio Bravo style standoff where McCrea and long time character actor Emile Meyer attempt to stand off McIntire and crew.
Soon enough McCrea finds a witness who isn’t about to crumble under the pressure and taunting of McCarthy whose character gets just a little more evil as the film progresses. It’s all just a matter of whether or not McCrea can conduct a trial before the films ultra short running time expires.
I can’t say I really liked the outcome of this title and perhaps that’s because it didn’t end like most other titles of the genre. Despite it being about twenty minutes shorter than most genre films it does give us a solid cast surrounding McCrea. Carradine gives us a little ham, McIntire is solid as usual and McCarthy suits his young hot shot role just fine.
Playing the cousin of McCarthy is an actress known as Miroslava. A new name for me and one that sadly died the year this film was released by her own hand at the age of thirty.
Spotlighting character actors is of course a favorite past time of mine and this one has a great one in McIntire but how about Emile Meyer. One look at him and all I can think of is Ryker.
The man that Alan Ladd’s Shane rides in to kill along with Jack Palance in the George Steven’s classic. Meyer has a good role this time out who offers strong support when McCrea needs it most. Keep your eyes open as well for another familiar face when Dabbs Greer pops into camera range.
Tourneur had worked previously with McCrea on the superior western Stars In My Crown in 1950 and has many fine titles under his belt including Out of the Past and some of the Val Lewton chillers like Cat People.
Perhaps most surprising of all is the fact that this effort was actually filmed in color. I snagged this one courtesy of a DVD release from VCI.