Sunday, November 8, 2009

Young Glenn Ford

The Fox Movie Channel is showing one of Glenn Ford's first feature films tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM ET: Heaven With a Barbed Wire Fence.

Ford plays Joe Riley, a New York City department store worker who is dissatisfied with his life in New York. He's decided he wants to live for himself, and to that end has bought a plot of land out in Arizona and is going to own his own farm. Now, he just has to get out to Arizona and, this being the Depression, going cross country isn't that easy. Ford quickly runs out of money and has to live like the hobos. Along the way, he meets an illegal Spanish immigrant (Jean Rogers); a man with a bit of a dark side (Richard Conte, in his feature film debut); and an older man affectionately called "The Professor" (character actor Raymond Walburn).

Heaven With a Barbed Wire Fence is pretty sqaurely in the B-movie genre. It's not without it's problems, but with a running time of just over an hour, it's over too quickly to get too disappointed with its flaws. Everything is a bit too pat; this isn't a Warner Bros. style social commentary movie like Wild Boys of the Road. Walburn comes across as a sort of imitation Guy Kibbee substitute: he's not bad, but you wish you could have the real thing. Jean Rogers' character seems rather unrealistic, too. Ford is fine, and although he only got billed fourth here, you can see that he had the magnetism necessary to make him a leading man after World War II.

Heaven With a Barbed Wire Fence is the sort of B movie that probably deserves to be released on DVD as part of a box set. By itself, it's only worth watching because of the appearance of Ford (and maybe Conte). Because of it's B-movie nature, it hasn't been released to DVD, though, so you're going to have to catch one of the Fox Movie Channel showings.

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