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.