Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Broken Land

When I mentioned The Reward a couple of days ago, I didn't mention that I had watched it in a double feature with the movie The Broken Land. As for The Broken Land, it's showing up on FXM Retro tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM, so this is your chance to catch it.

The film starts off with some falderal about how, in the years after the Civil War, there were a bunch of loner types who banded together and were... the insurgents! The worst thing about this scene is that Fox needed to keep the movie in the Cinemascope aspect ratio to show the text, and then switch to a grainy 4:3 panned-and-scanned print thereafter. Boo hiss. Anyhow, the panned-and-scanned portion of the movie begins with a stranger named Dave Dunson (Robert Sampson) coming into one of those old western towns in the territories on his horse. He stops outside a general store, but unfortunately the shop assistant Billy (Gary Sneed) knocks over some of those giant metal bulk milk containers that they used back in those days, an act which startles Dave's horse. It was of course an accident; Billy is probably just a bit slow although they wouldn't have used words like that back in the day either. Walking into all of this is Marshal Jim Cogan (Kent Taylor) who doesn't like what he sees.

Marshal Jim doesn't like anything, to be honest. He shows up at the restaurant where Dave stops to have a bite to eat, only for Dave to get involved in another accident when the waitress Mavera (Diana Darrin) accidentally knocks a glass off the table. Jim is enraged enough that he wants to throw Dave out of town for this! He also wants to throw Mavera out of town, but that's because she's got a past with him and clearly knows something about him that he doesn't want the rest of the townsfolk to know.

These three folks on Jim's enemies list are about to get involved with Jim again, this time in an incident that leads to a police-instigated brawl, and Billy and Dave being put in the town jail. Already there is Will Brocious (Jack Nicholson in one of his early roles), who hasn't done anything wrong, but who is the son of a man who was a notorious criminal. Will and Dave are used to this sort of treatment, but poor Billy isn't. Worse for Billy, the marshal is bullying the shopkeeper of the place where Billy works into pressing charges! Is there nothing bad this marshal won't do? Mavera has seen it all before, so before she gets on the stagecoach that's going to take her out of town for good, she goes to the jail and frees the three men. They, having learned a bit of Marshal Jim's bad nature, decide that they're going to stop the coach and rescue Mavera.

That goes wrong, Billy gets nicked in the arm by a shot, and the coachman drops the money bag thinking this is a holdup, which wasn't the intention at all. Now the marshal is really going to be after them! This time, however, at least one other person, Deputy Ed Flynn (Jody McCrea, son of Joel McCrea) has come to the conclusion that Jim is a hothead and he'll try to stop Jim from being too severe.

The Broken Land is a decidedly B movie that never really lets the viewer in too much on where the plot is going to go next, something which works for the movie. There's nothing spectacular here, just a bunch of solid entertainment. The only reason most people would think to even give this movie a chance is if they saw Jack Nicholson's name in it, and that's a shame, because the movie does deserve a bit more attention than that. It's also a huge shame that the FXM print is panned-and-scanned, because what we see in the opening credits makes it look like there's probably some nice cinematography here. Still, this is a movie more for the story than the backgrounds.

I don't think The Broken Land has received a DVD release, so you'll have to catch the FXM showings.

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