The River’s Edge (1957)
Under the direction of Allan Dwan and a location shoot in Mexico, it’s Anthony Quinn versus Ray Milland with the prize being a fortune in cash and the favors of sexy Debra Paget.
From the moment Milland pulls into a filling station run by Harry Carey Jr. we know he’s got an ulterior motive for asking about the whereabouts of Quinn, a first rate guide and tracker. He also lets us in on the fact that he knows Quinn has Paget for a wife. The plot will soon thicken.
Cut to Quinn working a ranch with little success and Paget in cut offs and high heels looking as unhappy as the calf that Quinn has tied up to be branded. Verbal fireworks are soon to be traded when we learn she’s had enough of the simple life. She’s better suited to the big city, fur coats and criminals she used to hang with. By criminals I do indeed mean Milland.
The reason for marrying Quinn was to avoid a long stretch in the pen for refusing to turn states evidence against her man, Milland. But now he’s about to come waltzing back into her life with a cool million in cash. All he needs to do is convince Quinn to get him across the border into Mexico. Quietly.
Following a little bit of melodrama that sees Paget pack her belongings and Quinn’s refusal to aid Milland who isn’t letting on he’s here to reclaim the red headed beauty, Milland and Paget will connect later that evening in town where their torrid yet deadly love affair resumes.
Quinn catches on to just who Milland really is but before he can confront the duo, Milland’s true colors come forth when he viciously kills a border patrol office conducting a road side inspection. For Paget it’s a rude awakening to just what her lover is capable of. With blood on their hands, Quinn decides to cash in on Milland and his soon to be ex-wife. For a cool 10K he’ll sneak them south of the border through dangerous mountain country. While Ray holds the gun and the cash, Quinn, keeps a rifle tied up in his bedroll. A definite lack of trust is in the air that is only heightened when Milland kills an old prospector who they stumble upon played by Chubby Johnson. This puts Quinn in the accessory category right along with Milland and Paget.
It’s during this cross country trek that Quinn being the star he had become by this point in his career will get to do a little bit of he-man rock climbing minus the stunt double. All in keeping with the machismo he so magnificently put on screen during the 1950’s and 60’s.
With the border in sight, Milland, is plotting, Paget is worried about who she’s put her trust in and Quinn is thinking he’d better keep Milland in front of him on the trail if he doesn’t want to end up like poor Chubby. The power struggle is going to continually shift down the stretch of this 87 minute feature produced by Benedict Bogeaus. At every twist in the trail, Paget will see the two men exchange who has the upper hand and which one is holding the gun after some violent punches are thrown with deadly intentions.
Still to come are snakes, a dead cow, a badly infected flesh wound that needs to be drained, a rock slide and a busted up leg. Yes, all inside that 87 minute running time. So just who is going to come out the winner between our two Oscar winners going toe to toe? How about a draw? Maybe one takes the cash and one takes the girl? Maybe Paget runs off with the cash and leaves the two men to their fate?
You won’t get anything out of me aside from the fact that it’s hard to take a rooting interest in any of the three leads. Milland and Paget are not all that likable and Quinn’s not far off though I must admit it’s damned hard not to like Anthony Quinn in any role he played once he became an Oscar winning costar turned leading man throughout the mid to latter part of his legendary career. So I guess I’m rooting for Quinn and maybe, just maybe there’s redemption in store for all three in the final reel. Let’s not forget this is still during the era when the “code” was strictly enforced.
Always one to appreciate the narrative of old movie trailers, this one intones …. “Men driven by primitive hungers for a woman who loved them both.”
Miss Paget was truly one of the most beautiful ladies to grace the screen in the 1950’s and to see her on the town with Milland in her tight fitting blue dress is a feast upon the eyes for us mere mortals. She first began appearing in front of the camera as a teenager in the late 1940’s. I suspect she was very much in demand by this point coming off a stellar 1956. She had appeared in a superior western, The Last Hunt, a box-office bonanza in The Ten Commandments and played the leading love interest opposite a young upstart named Elvis Presley making his film debut in Love Me Tender. But the run appeared to be over post ’57 and she drifted into TV for the next few years with a stop in the memorable Haunted Palace with Vincent Price. I believe she retired from movie screens at the ripe old age of 30.
Director Dwan was born in Canada and film buffs are likely to know his career dated back to the silent era where he found success guiding Douglas Fairbanks in 1922’s Robin Hood among many others. He’d team up with Producer Bogeaus on a steady diet of enjoyable flicks near the end of his career. Ten in total. Among them the Stanwyck favorite, Cattle Queen of Montana, Stanwyck again in Escape to Burma as well as the Virginia Mayo adventure Pearl of the South Seas.
Both Quinn and Milland found their footing during the 1930’s in minor roles but Milland got the jump on Quinn when it came to scoring leading man status scoring an Oscar for 1945’s The Lost Weekend in the bargain. The pair had appeared opposite each other previously in 47’s California when Milland was in his prime with Quinn billed 6th below Albert Dekker and George Coulouris. Quinn’s rise may have been slow but it was steady and I would suggest in the end he surpassed Milland’s overall standing in Hollywood history as we look back (and yes I’m a big fan). Quinn maintained a leading man status far into his senior years while Milland drifted back into supporting parts, generally playing cranky old sons of bitches.
Sure both men and our leading lady made better pictures but that doesn’t mean this one isn’t enjoyable as a whole and if you’re like me and have found Tony Quinn to be a credit to most any movie he ever appeared in then give this one a look. It’s out on both DVD and blu ray via the Twilight Time group.