Friday, June 15, 2018

Decision at Sundown

Not too long ago I recorded a night of Randolph Scott westerns on TCM. There were three with director Budd Boetticher and Colt .45. I've blogged about two of the three Boetticher movies, and all three of them are on a box set I recently bought off of Amazon. The third Boetticher movie TCM ran was Decision at Sundown.

Scott plays Bart Allison, who at the start of the movie holds up a stagecoach he's riding on so that it will stop in the middle of nowhere. Eventually meeting him at the hold-up point is his old friend Sam (Noah Beery Jr.), and the two ride together into the town of Sundown. The arrive just in time to find out that town boss Tate Kimbrough (John Carroll) is about to marry lovely Lucy (Karen Steele), daughter of the largest landowner (John Litel). Everybody in town is going to be going to the wedding.

Indeed, that's why Bart came to town. He has some unfinished business to attend to at the wedding, which soon comes to light when the JP performing the ceremony does the "speak now or forever hold your peace" bit and tries much too fast to go on to the next part of the ceremony. Oh hell no, Bart isn't going to stand for that. Bart asks Tate if he remembers a woman named Mary at Sabine Pass. Ultimately, we learn that while Bart was off fighting the Civil War for the South, Tate met Mary, who was Bart's Mrs. Bart Allison. The encounter eventually led Mary to commit suicide, and Bart naturally blames Tate for what happened. Bart plans to get revenge, and since Lucy doesn't want to be a widow, she runs back home to Daddy to await further developments.

Tate is none too happy, forcing Bart and Sam to make a quick getaway back to the livery stable, where they are besieged by Tate and his men. In addition to being the town boss, Tate apparently controls half of the men in town and they're able to draw their guns on the stable although it's easy enough for Bart and Sam to barricade the one entrance. However, it turns out that the other half of the town that isn't controlled by Tate has always resented him, as he's an interloper who only came to Sundown after whatever happened with Mary all those years ago. They might be willing to find a way to try to stand up to Tate for once.

That's pretty much all there is to Decision at Sundown. Or, at least, that's all I got out of it. There is in many ways a lot less action here than in a lot of other westerns, even than in most of the psychological westerns. When there is action, it seems a bit illogical. Tate says he'll let the two men out of the stable if they leave town, and Sam is willing to leave the stable. But then he gets the idiotic idea that Tate is going to let him back in. Even if there were an important message to sent to Bart, it would be done through a neutral intermediary like the JP or maybe even Lucy's father. I also found there to be a lot of backstory that probably could have been fleshed out more.

Overall, of the Scott/Boetticher westerns I've seen, I'd consider Decision at Sundown to be the least of them. Fans of Randolph Scott will probably like it, although if I were introducing people to Scott's westerns it's not the first one I'd pick. I wouldn't say that I didn't like it -- there are some movies I've seen recently that I had much more severe problems with -- it's just that I found something bigger lacking than in a fair number of other movies. It's on a box set, though, so even if you have more problems with it that I did, you can consider it a bonus movie.

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