“If our plan works, you’ll be the foreman — the ramrod of the whole outfit.”
A headstrong young woman (Veronica Lake) defies the wishes of her father (Charles Ruggles) by ignoring the romantic advances of a powerful local landowner (Preston Foster), instead deciding to run her own ranch with the help of a recovering alcoholic (Joel McCrea) and his friend (Don DeFore).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Joel McCrea Films
- Lloyd Bridges Films
- Preston Foster Films
- Strong Females
- Veronica Lake Films
Hungarian-born director Andre De Toth is perhaps best known as the “one-eyed man who directed a 3-D movie” — The House of Wax (1953) with Vincent Price — but he possesses a small cult following for a handful of more obscure titles, including this noir-ish western (based on a story by western writer Luke Short) starring De Toth’s then-wife, Veronica Lake. Given the casting of Lake, viewers won’t be too surprised to find that her character quickly emerges as a femme fatale of sorts — a relentlessly calculating woman willing to use men for her own gain, and apply whatever romantic overtures she feels are necessary for any given cause. Interestingly, little effort is made at first to help contextualize the film’s milieu; we’re plunged immediately into a complex situation we only gradually come to understand. Once the pieces are in place, the narrative turns into a reasonably taut drama of rivalry and revenge, made more interesting given the presence of a strong, independent female as one of the two primary rivals.
Note: Diehard western fans will want to check out an extensive analysis of the film for Senses of Cinema, wherein critic Rick Thompson argues that it’s “a turning-point film — a skillful and moving summary of a long tradition… and a definitive break with that tradition, setting up a new area of possibilities which proceed to change the genre — in the direction of film noir.”
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Veronica Lake as a most unusual western femme fatale
- Don DeFore as Bill Schell
- Good use of Utah locales
- Russell Harlan’s cinematography
No, though it’s worth a look, and certainly must-see for anyone seriously interested in the genre. Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book.