I stumbled across this movie via Jeff Arnold’s Western movie blog). The review indicated, in short, that this movie is One Weird Puppy, but also that it starred Yvonne DeCarlo (she was in The Ten Commandments! And Criss Cross, and Brute Force. Really, IMDB, Brute Force? Huh.) Also, it has Rory Calhoun (Look, if you don’t watch 1950s B-Westerns, I don’t know what to say to you), and a couple of those other bit actors that you always can have fun spotting in the background going “sure, boss” and attempting the shoot the hero in the back.
IMDB: “In the lawless Oregon country of 1842, local magnate Gerald Montgomery decrees that any unattached woman belongs to the first taker. Dan Kirby is lynched, starting a stampede to claim his half-Indian wife Paca. Trouble starts with the local tribe, but worse is in store when Dan’s tough brother Tex rides in. The zeal of Montgomery’s men to protect him from Tex is tempered by their lust for Hannah, who’d be his widow.”
Soooo….yep, this is a weird movie all right. The person set up as the main villain does not have a big showdown with the hero; he’s absent most of the movie and the person whom the hero does confront and conquer is the two-bit thug we have been seen being a despicable lech the entire time. And there is the, uh, extremely weird setup for the plot to begin with.
(Quoth the Mother of Skaith: “Was that actually the law?” “No, mom. They made it up for the movie.” “Oh. Why?”)
What sets this movie apart from pure exploitation is the fact that all the characters–including the women–actively and intelligently work in their own interests. In both cases (yes, there’s only two women in the movie); their own interests prioritize: staying alive, protecting their loved ones, or avenging their loved ones, as well as conforming–or attempting to conform to–to standards of human decency.
Plot: So after the lynching of the guy who is going to be avenged by a handsome stranger with a gun, Mrs Montgomery/Hannah attempts to get his widow, Paca, to safety with her tribe. This doesn’t work; Paca is claimed by one of Montgomery’s men. She isn’t happy with the situation, needless to say, but, sticking with the guy who can protect her is the only way to stay alive. She sticks with him, until the time comes when she can safely turn it around and…well….it’s not really a satisfying revenge, because it’s over too quickly. Meanwhile, Mr. Montgomery is absent, Mrs. Montgomery is not, and a handsome stranger has just showed up with a gun.
You can kind of guess what happens from there on out. And even if you don’t, it’s unpredictably fun to watch happen.
Mrs. Montgomery is the damsel in distress of the movie and as such, given how feminism and female characters (stronk or not) work these days, is slightly annoying. I kept yelling for her to get a freaking gun of her own. However, she really is a genuinely likeable character regardless, and moreover, she’s consistently written. She remains ladylike and resourceful throughout all. You buy her personality and don’t want her to be hurt. She’s a loyal wife who loved (past tense) her husband, and is also semi-aware that the entire situation is his and partly therefore her fault.
Still, Lady, get a freaking gun. (She does, however, attempt to brain a thuggish lech with a candlestick in the final shootout. Which is something).
The Indians are also given a treatment rather unusual for early westerns. They don’t whoop, they don’t shoot arrows, and they don’t get mowed down by the white men. They react to the murder of one of their own in a measured, reasonable way, and it’s quite satisfying.
The photography and acting is also very good; color is nicely used, scenery is lush, sets nice, etc. I’m also out of time.
Rating: Four ornamental bull’s heads out of five.