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Robbers Roost (1955)

Born in Montana, George Montgomery, was well suited to the western during the decade of the 1950’s when the genre was at it’s zenith. This Sidney Salkow directed effort of an original Zane Grey story casts Montgomery in the role of a mysterious lone rider who hooks up with a gang of killers and cattle rustlers led by a man who should be no stranger to fans of the western, Richard Boone.

From the outset we’re let in on a piece of Montgomery’s past when he rides into a sparse settlement and checks a brand on a horse in front of a saloon. He’ll quietly turn his back on the sheriff who passes by and enter a dive bar following after a group of men led by Peter Graves. For now Montgomery will sit idly by and watch as Graves and Boone verbally spar with the threat of violence in the air. Graves character is deadly serious while Boone carries an aura of likeability about him though he isn’t to be trusted. Beneath the hearty laugh and hunger for women and whiskey there lurks a killer.

When Graves attempts to cheat Boone at cards, Montgomery plays an ace of his own letting Boone know Graves has an ace up his sleeve. No bloodshed just yet as Graves and his men move on but Boone takes an instant liking to Montgomery and welcomes him into his inner circle which consists of western regulars Leo Gordon and Warren Stevens. Boone and company are on their way to a cattle ranch run by the crippled Bruce Bennett. Bennett knows his herds are now easy targets for rustlers and has few options left other than to hire both Graves’ gang and Boone’s. He wisely figures that each pack wants to steal the herd but will keep an eye on the other preventing it from happening till the animals go to market.

Into a male dominated backdrop comes Bennett’s sister, Sylvia Findley. Far from a household name, Miss Findley only has two credits to her name. The other being 1954’s Black Tuesday starring Edward G, Robinson. A film I’ve yet to see and one that also starred Graves and Stevens. Seeing Montgomery as a little more honorable than the rest, Bennett sends him into town to pick up his young sister. Once she arrives at the ranch, the rough hombres in both groups are eyeing up the new filly. When Stevens gets it in his mind to rope her as his own, we’ll see how lightning quick Montgomery is on the draw.

Bennett next assigns Montgomery to be his sister’s personal escort around the ranch which then leads to good old Leo Gordon making some risqué accusations aimed at Montgomery which in turn leads to a bloody brawl as Montgomery bests him.

There’s a lot of plot going on in this compact 84 minute oater from director Salkow. Still to come is a truce between Graves and Boone in order to split the proceeds of rustling the herd. Sounds honorable but we’re talking a pre Paladin Richard Boone here. By the time Graves and his men including Stanley Clements come to their senses, Boone, Montgomery and the boys have the herd sold off and they’ve kidnapped Sylvia for good measure, fully anticipating a posse on the hunt along with Graves’ outfit.

We’ve known all along that Montgomery has a hidden past and he hasn’t partnered up with Boone’s gang by mere chance. The final half hour will unveil all we need to know when the bullets begin to fly and the bodies pile up in the breathtaking rocky terrain of Durango, Mexico where the movie was filmed.

George Montgomery makes for a very stoic cowboy with an onscreen presence that predates the Clint Eastwood Man With No Name character by a few years. He’s silent for long spells biding his time to ensure the justice he’s looking for is handed out with deadly intentions. Once the 1950’s hit, Montgomery, filled out his dance card with a number of western adventures before moving on to directing and starring in some low budget war films during the 60’s.

Of course Boone shines bright here in the flashy role of the bandit with the big smile and laugh to match. He gets two scenes that serve him well when it comes to the ladies. Early on in the film when Graves comes into the saloon, Boone, is enjoying himself upstairs and when summoned tells his gal, “Don’t go far,” with a surefire grin on his face. The other bit is when he thinks aloud that he’s hoping to score the nightshift when it comes to guarding Miss Sylvia after Montgomery’s day shift has ended. Reminds me of his great scene in Hombre where he mentions he always removes his hat in the presence of a lady. He goes on to point out that whatever else he removes depends on just how lucky he gets. ….. Yeah I have to admit I love this guy playing mean.

For the film buffs, there is an earlier version of this from 1932 that starred western regular George O’Brien opposite Maureen O’Sullivan who in this same year would achieve movie immortality as Jane opposite Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan.

Hard to deny this one if you like westerns and the actors that frequently populated them in the 1950’s and beyond. Thankfully this one has turned up on blu ray from Kino Lorber if you’re interested in adding it to your own library. The original 1955 insert? I kind of doubt if it’s readily available but keep your eyes peeled. One never knows.

12 Comments »

  1. I grew up watching and enjoying most, if not all of the westerns starring George Montgomery. In a number of his films especially westerns, you can be sure to find Leo Gordon and Peter Graves. Saw Robbers’ Roost a long time ago and can’t hardly recall much of it. Best regards.

  2. Leonard Goldstein,after a very successful run with Universal and his own production imprint Panoramic Productions finally formed “Leonard Goldstein Productions”
    This company only released 3 films (STRANGER ON HORSEBACK,ROBBERS ROOST,BLACK TUESDAY) as Mr Goldstein passed away in 1954 aged 51.
    The films were overseen by Robert L Jacks Mr Goldstein’s business partner/associate,in fact Mr Goldstein passed away before STRANGER ON HORSEBACK was
    released.Joel McCrea had choice of director on STRANGER ON HORSEBACK and I should imagine Montgomery had the same deal on ROBBER’S ROOST
    he got on well with Sidney Salkow and interestingly they both had Eastern European roots.
    Robert L Jacks carried on making good movies-how many of these were projects in development with Goldstein,who knows? (A KISS BEFORE DYING,THE PROUD
    ONES,THE MAN FROM DEL RIO,THE KILLER IS LOOSE,BANDIDO….)
    BLACK TUESDAY is a very tough brutal Noir and I’m hoping either Kino or Classicflix give us a restored version…it certainly deserves one.
    Thanks,Mike for bringing this generally unheralded Western to folk’s attention-the Blu Ray is a vast upgrade over the DVD.
    Finally,how nice to see a working ranch in a Western where the ranch hands actually work!

    • Great information here and thanks for sharing. I’ve seen Stranger On Horseback and it’s an odd title due to it’s running time of 66 minutes. Something went wrong there somehow with McCrea in the lead. I guess I’ll be hoping right alongside that Black Tuesday turns up. I think those cow punchers were anything but excited about working the ranch. 🙂

  3. Mike, I too felt something amiss with Stranger On Horseback when I saw it . Could it be editing, scrip or direction? Somehow even with Joel in the lead, something is not right.

  4. Might have had something to do with censorship issues, with Miroslava and her whip cracking antics,especially where she come across McCrea
    bathing naked in a pool…scene looks as it it was cut. I agree film should have clocked in at 80 minutes not 66 but what there is of it I really like.
    I also like the bit that Raymond Durgnat described as “Hawksian Moral Sadism” where weak willed sheriff Emile Meyer finally accepts the need for violence and
    blasts away at the bad guys with a shotgun…”How do you like it?” asks McCrea….”Loathsome” replies Meyer,grinning broadly.
    A properly restored version of this film would be most welcome.

  5. I’m not nearly as well up on Montgomery westerns as I ought to be, having only seen a the merest handful. This isn’t one of them, although I have had it recommended to me before. I need to do something about this – the cast alone is mouthwatering.

  6. I just got a set of those George Montgomery 60s war movies you mention, very curious to see what they’re like. What westerns I’ve seen of his I really enjoy, and I love this cast! will have to check it out.

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