Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rare Westerns on Netflix Instant Watch Capsule Reviews, vol.8

Four Guns to the Border (1954)

Rory Calhoun plays a bank robber who tries to escape to Mexico with his gang, but things get complicated when they decide to save a pretty young girl from an Indian attack. Rory and the girl fall madly in love, leading to some very “Duel in the Sun”-style sexual imagery (including kissing in the rain and primary colors) assisted by the very sensual Colleen Miller. Despite the forced moralizing and the fact that the gang freely allows their “getaway” to be sidetracked over and over, this is a well crafted technicolor western that is visually interesting throughout.

The transfer looks great. Never released on home video.

The Gal Who Took the West (1949)

Yvonne DeCarlo stars in a very amusing camp western, where she pretends to be an opera singer in order to get hired for a performance out west that pays $10,000 (I think that's like a million dollars in today’s money, although I'm not going to bother figuring that shit out). The man who is flipping the bill for Yvonne to perform at his new opera house (where he threatens to shoot people who don’t applaud) has two feuding sons who both fall for her. This threatens to further tear the family apart, although the sons were already threatening to shoot each other before Yvonne even showed up, so I don't know how much more damage she could cause. Either way, she is such a perceived threat that the father offers to pay Yvonne the ten grand just to leave the town, without even having to sing. They must have had a pretty thriving economy to be able to pay people millions of dollars just to not sing. Anyway, there is plenty of smartass “battle of the sexes” dialogue, which Yvonne delivers with sarcastic sultry glances, almost veering into comedic noir territory. This reminds me a sillier version of Honkey Tonk (1941, with Clark Gable and Lana Turner), and it’s a must for Yvonne DeCarlo groupies (I know you’re out there).

Excellent color transfer, and never released on home video.

Apache Drums (1951)

A disgraced gambler is forced to leave town, but happens upon an Apache massacre, returning to warn them and eventually help the town against an all out Apache attack. Val Lewton’s last production, this is beautifully shot, with some of the atmosphere and impending doom of his horror movies (despite being in color), culminating in an excellent showdown that is both creepy and suspenseful. It does get bogged down with a love triangle, but this is an otherwise worthy western entry into the Val Lewton canon, making the Apaches the monsters of sorts, while still humanizing them a bit by making it clear that they are attacking the town because they were thoroughly wronged by the white man (or there abouts).

Excellent color transfer, and never released on home video.

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