Friday, December 2, 2022

The Desperadoes

Randolph Scott made enough westerns in his career that it's easy for a company to put out multiple box sets of his westerns. I got through all of the films on one of the Scott box sets I had, and some time back bought a second. I recently got around to watching one of the movies off that box set, The Desperadoes.

The first thing that surprised me is that the movie is in Technicolor, something I wouldn't have expected from Columbia producing what is really little more than a programmer during the height of World War II. But since Natalie Kalmus' name is on the credits, we know this isn't a colorized movie. Also mildly surprising is the cast, since two of the players were about to go on to bigger things.

Anyhow, as for the plot, it involves the town of Red Valley, Utah, during the Civil War. The local bank gets robbed, causing the settler depositors to question their confidence in the bank. Have no fear, says proprietor Clanton (Porter Hall); he's getting a better safe -- and indeed, there is a scene of the new safe arriving. But we also see in a brief scene where he's talking to livery stable owner Willie McLeod (Edgar Buchanan), this robbery is really an inside job by the two of them and an outlaw gang.

Randolph Scott is not, in fact, a member of that gang. Instead, he's the local sheriff, Steve Upton. He wasn't in town for the robbery because he was trying to catch some wanted criminals. To make matters worse, Steve was waylaid out in the wilderness by Cheyenne Rogers (Glenn Ford). Cheyenne was supposed to be one of the gunmen in the robbery, imported from well away so that nobody would recognize him, but he got delayed by the loss of his horse, and had to steal Steve's instead.

So when Rogers gets to town, using an obviously phony name like Bob or Bill Smith or somesuch, Willie's niece Allison (Evelyn Keyes) immediately figures something is amiss. That's because she recognizes the sheriff's horse, wondering why somebody else would be riding it. Worse for Cheyenne is that the lady who is in charge of the gambling at the saloon, calling herself the Countess (Claire Trever, future Oscar winner) knows Cheynne and knows of his criminal past.

Still, Cheyenne stays in town, in part because the Countess thinks she caused Cheyenne to go bad back in Wyoming. And then there's the Sheriff, who knows Cheyenne and either doesn't know about Cheyenne's past, or doesn't care about it now that Cheynne is trying to get on the right side of the Production Code again. Complicating matters is that the Countess is also in love with Cheyenne, although he and Allison fall in love along the way. And then one of the gang members who actually robbed the bank outs Cheyenne, which puts him and the sheriff in danger.

As I said at the beginning, I was kind of surprised to see The Desperadoes in Technicolor, since for a 1940s western it's little more than standard stuff. At least when they got past 1953 and the introduction of Cinemascope, you can understand the programmer westerns wanting to use color to show off those wide vistas and compete with television, largely in black and white at the time. Although The Desperadoes is fairly standard, that doesn't mean it's a bad movie by any means. In fact, it's quite competently made, and will definitely entertain any fan of the western genre. It's not quite as good as the darker and more psychological westerns of the 1950s, or the A westerns, but it holds its own as a movie to watch on a rainy day or if you want something shorter.

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