This is one of my favourite westerns, up there with John Ford’s “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”. I love Fritz Lang’s dealing with the theme of an avenger becoming as bad as the person he is hunting. Arthur Kennedy is very good as the avenger and so is Marlene Dietrich as a ex-saloon women and Mel Ferrer as her husband. Even George Reeves (Superman!) has a small role in it. What do you think of it?
It works on about 5 levels.
It’s a Marlene Dietrich-vehicle all the way… at the absolute pinnacle of her sexual nuke-blast. She was just busting-out as the ultimate bad-girl, while still riding her USO-high as the troops’ most-popular entertainer next-to Bob Hope. Female audiences loved her, because her characters were usually jailed or killed in the end… enjoying jealous ‘revenge’ upon their bf’s/husband’s Marlene-fantasy. She even improvised a pre-war Berlin cabaret-song Blue Angel-ishly in an early 1870’s setting, and made it work.
The script is believable and void-of cliches. Characters act logically. Dietrich doesn’t carry a gun, but it’s easy to see how she intimidates the hardened criminals who surround her.
Mel Ferrer’s performance is low-key dynamite. His best performance apart-from Scaramouche. Elam’s character is quintessential ‘Elam’, deadly but deep. Kennedy’s Vern Haskell-character was satisfyingly facial. We know his motivations.
The music-soundtrack…? I guess there had to be a film with the song like ‘Chukuluck’ weaving-through it.
Lang’s direction is superb. I forgive the distracting shadows in some of his ‘outdoor’ scenes, which were obviously studio-shot. No director can capture Dietrich in her radiance with an outside/natural-lighting scenario. This film was built around her, top German-director filming top German-actress.
Saw this one today. Can’t say that I was totally captivated although it was pretty good on the whole. Didn’t like the way action was handled in general, seemed dated even for the year of its release. Then it was that ultra cheesy song that was supposed to be part of the narration as well, it made cringe on quite a few occasions to be honest. Some of outdoor settings looked very studio-like harming the atmosphere somehow, the interiors on the other hand were pretty colorful and atmospheric. Story was interesting enough and not cliched although I’d like to see a twist that would bring the two main men in a personal fight in the end. 3 stars for this one.