Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rare Westerns on Netflix Instant Watch Capsule Reviews, vol.17

The Peacemaker (1956)

A reverend and former gunslinger (James Mitchell) is assigned to Pembroke, a rough and tumble town. He quickly bumps into Viggo, the local tough, who warns him that he is in fact a lawnmower looking for reverend grass (I’m paraphrasing). The reverend and his new church become vital to cooling disputes between the railroad, the ranchers, and the farmers. The reverend is simply a good guy that would rather rely on speeches than bullets to create peace, which is fine in theory, but pretty boring. It’s also somewhat impractical, considering the scene where he tells a character that violence is not the answer, and the guy immediately punches him in the face. All told, a pretty direct answer to his question.

Very good B & W transfer, and never released on home video.

Santa Fe Passage (1955)

John Payne, with his assistant Slim Pickens, is a scout that helps wagon trains traverse hostile Indian land. However, he unwisely bribes some Indians with guns, and they use those guns to shoot up a wagon train despite promising not to shoot white people (I guess they couldn’t help themselves). Among the victims is a young boy that wheezes his way through his final moments. Disgraced, Payne aims to redeem himself and manages to get another job as a scout for some gun runners trying to get to Santa Fe, despite his employers knowing about what happened. The most skeptical person in the group is a tough half-breed cowgirl (Faith Domergue) who eventually warns up to him. Another typical “wagon train in hostile Indian lands” plot benefits from the dynamic between Payne and Domergue.

Decent color transfer suffers from digital noise and blocking, and is also cropped from 1.66:1 (no biggie). Never released on home video.

The Lone Gun 1954

George Montgomery is a reluctant marshal (not to be confused with The Reluctant Astronaut, which is a Don Knotts movie) who tries to clean up a town held in fear by the Moran gang (headed by Neville Brand). Dorothy Malone and her brother own a farm but are deep in debt, so her brother joins the gang as they go cattle rustling. The brother wants to go clean but can’t get a bank loan, so he decides to bet his farm (literally "bet the farm") against Neville in a game of poker to try and settle his debt and ends up winning. However, scumbag Neville (he usually plays these kinds of characters in westerns it seems) just shoot him and frames Montgomery’s sly professional poker player friend Fairweather. This sets up an interesting scenario where characters are pitted against each other and loyalties are tested, as Montgomery tries to sort through the facts to see that justice is properly served. Straight forward and no frills, but the script is engaging, and the Fairweather character (Frank Faylen) is charismatic and interesting.

Very good transfer, although the colors are a bit faded and there is an odd diffuse quality to the print (which may have been intentional). It looks to have been filmed in a 2 strip teal-leaning color process (maybe Trucolor). Never released on home video.

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