Amiable, unassertive Scott Mary picks up the trash, cleans the toilets, sweeps the floors in the town of Clifton. Then a gunfighter comes to town. He offers advice and guidance to Scott who quickly begins to toughen and mature, thus upsetting the balance of power in the town.
The Naked Dawn (1955) Edgar G. Ulmer, Arthur Kennedy, Betta St. John, Eugene Iglesias, Crime, Drama, Western, Action, Romance
Given a bigger budget than usual, cult director Edgar G. Ulmer rises to the occasion in The Naked Dawn. Filmed in Mexico, the story focuses on a poor but proud farmer named Manuel (Eugene Iglesias) and his wife Maria (Betta St. John). When glib-tongued drifter Santiago (Arthur Kennedy) tries to get Manuel mixed up in a train robbery, the farmer is at first resistant, but is goaded into joining Santiago by the covetous Maria. Corrupted by the prospect of untold wealth, Manuel begins plotting the murder of Santiago; meanwhile, Maria makes plans to bump off Manuel and run off with the handsome stranger. There’s a moral in all this, and Ulmer makes certain that we don’t miss it.
The Singer Not the Song (1961) Roy Ward Baker, Dirk Bogarde, John Mills, Mylène Demongeot, Drama, Western
During the 1950s, in a small isolated Mexican village, the local Roman Catholic priest, Father Gomez, is an older man with a broken spirit. During his tenure in the village of Quantano, he fought hard to keep his flock of parishioners, in spite of threats and intimidation from the part of local bandit Anacleto Comachi and his men. The atheistic bandit has imposed his tyrannical rule over the region for many years. The local Police cannot find any witnesses to come forward and testify to any wrongdoing from the part of Anacleto. Therefore, they cannot charge him or arrest him. The Catholic Church replaces Father Gomez with a younger, more energetic priest, Father Keogh from Ireland. Before departing the village, Father Gomez warns Father Keogh of the dangers of defying Anacleto Comachi’s authority. But Father Keogh openly defies the bandit and administers his daily priestly duties at the village church. He even manages to persuade some of the villagers to start attending church again.
Viva Villa! (1934) Jack Conway, Howard Hawks, Wallace Beery, Fay Wray, Leo Carrillo, Biography, Western
In this fictionalized biography, young Pancho Villa takes to the hills after killing an overseer in revenge for his father’s death. In 1910, he befriends American reporter Johnny Sykes. Then a meeting with visionary Francisco Madero transforms Villa from an avenging bandit to a revolutionary general. To the tune of ‘La Cucaracha,’ his armies sweep Mexico. After victory, Villa’s bandit-like disregard for human life forces Madero to exile him. But Madero’s fall brings Villa back to raise the people against a new tyrant…
A young cowboy, whose dedication to the principles of peace and reason has earned him a reputation for cowardice, overcomes his psychological aversion to violence after his elder brother unjustly censures him for not joining in a foolhardy gunfight in which their youngest brother is killed.
“Who are you?” the dwarf Mordecai (Billy Curtis) asks Clint Eastwood’s Stranger at the end of Eastwood’s 1973 western High Plains Drifter. “You know,” he replies, before vanishing into the desert heat waves near California’s Mono Lake. Adapting the amorally enigmatic and violent Man With No Name persona from his films with Sergio Leone, Eastwood’s second film as director begins as his drifter emerges from that heat haze and rides into the odd lakefront settlement of Lago. Lago’s residents are not particularly friendly, but once the Stranger shows his skills as a gunfighter, they beg him to defend them against a group of outlaws (led by Eastwood regular Geoffrey Lewis) who have a score to settle with the town. He agrees to train them in self-defense, but Mordecai and innkeeper’s wife Sarah Belding (Verna Bloom) soon suspect that the Stranger has another, more personal agenda. By the time the Stranger makes the corrupt community paint their town red and re-name it “Hell,” it is clear that he is not just another gunslinger. With its fragmented flashbacks and bizarre, austere locations, High Plains Drifter’s stylistic eccentricity lends an air of unsettling eeriness to its revenge story, adding an uncanny slant to Eastwood’s antiheroic westerner. Seminal western hero John Wayne was so offended by Eastwood’s harshly revisionist view of a frontier town that he wrote to Eastwood, objecting that this was not what the spirit of the West was all about. Eastwood’s audience, however, was not so put off, and an exhibitors’ poll named Eastwood a top box-office draw for 1973.
Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957) Harold D. Schuster, Barry Sullivan, Dennis O’Keefe, Mona Freeman, Western
Produced by Milton Sperling’s United States Pictures, South of St. Louis was given a widespread release by Warner Bros. The story begins in the last days of the Civil War. Chased off their property by guerillas, ranching partners Kip Davis (Joel McCrea), Charlie Burns (Zachary Scott) and Lee Prince (Douglas Kennedy) head southward to seek out a new life. Davis and Burns go into the gun-running business, while Prince joins the Confederate Army. Kip and Charlie battle over the affections of saloon gal Rouge de Lisle (Alexis Smith), a turn of events that falls into the plans of rival gunrunner Luke Cottrell (Victor Jory). The three former friends soon find themselves enemies, and thereby hangs the plotline. Curiously, Dorothy Malone, cast as the “good” heroine, seems to be more worldly and cunning than hard-boiled temptress Alexis Smith. Originally filmed in Technicolor, South of St. Louis was for many years available only in its black-and-white, TV-print form.
Santa Fe Trail (1940) Michael Curtiz, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Raymond Massey, Adventure, Biography, Drama, History, Romance, War, Western
After Custer and the 7th Cavalry are wiped out by Indians, everyone expects the worst. Capt. Nathan Brittles is ordered out on patrol but he’s also required to take along Abby Allshard, wife of the Fort’s commanding officer, and her niece, the pretty Olivia Dandridge, who are being evacuated for their own safety. Brittles is only a few days away from retirement and Olivia has caught the eye of two of the young officers in the Company, Lt. Flint Cohill and 2nd Lt. Ross Pennell. She’s taken to wearing a yellow ribbon in her hair, a sign that she has a beau in the Cavalry, but refuses to say for whom she is wearing it.