Cattle, Dust and Revenge.
Eureka bring us #156 in their Masters of Cinema series and with their package they offer one of the best and most hard hitting westerns of its time. This is the fifth collaboration between James Stewart (Flight of the Phoenix) and director Anthony Mann (El Cid, The Fall of the Roman Empire) and arguably the best work between them. This film was one of the first Westerns to be filmed in CinemaScope to capture the vastness of the scenery. The film was also shot in Technicolor and now restored to 4k film transfer.
A supply wagon train snakes its way through the vast expanse of Arizona, travelling from Laramie to the cattle town of Coronado, a town in the middle of nowhere but it is surrounded by vast swathes of good grazing ground for cattle.
At the head of the wagon train is Will Lockhart (James Stewart, Vertigo, It’s a Wonderful Life) and his sidekick Charley (Wallace Ford, Shadow of a Doubt). They pull up at a small gulch where Will insists they will camp for the night, even though there is still plenty of light. He goes to investigate some burnt out station wagons and the remains of some cavalry soldiers.
The next day they pull into Coronado and find the Waggoman Mercantile where their prepaid supplies are to be delivered. Will finds the owner Barbara Waggoman (Cathy O’Donnell, Ben-Hur), who wishes that the supplies would never arrive as she wants to leave Coronado, but she takes them off Will’s hands. Whilst in the shop he spots a repeating rifle on the wall and asks the store assistant where it came from. He is told that was a trade in from an Indian, an expensive trade from an Indian.
After completing the drop Will considers his crews return trip to Laramie and asks Barbara if there is anything he can take back to trade and she tells him about the salt flats just out of town and it is free to take, all you have to do is shovel it up.
What comes is a storm in the form of Dave Waggoman (Alex Nicol, Gunfighters of Casa Grande) of the Bur Ranch, the big land owner of the area. He immediately accuses Will of stealing the salt and has one of his men lasso him and drag him through the camp-fire before setting his three wagons on fire and shooting his mules before the Barb’s foreman Vic Hansbro (Arthur Kennedy, High Sierra) rides up and puts a stop to it. He tells Will and his men to get out of town before something nasty happens to them.
This doesn’t sit well with Will, so he pays his men off and sends them on their way but Charley wants to help Will with his real mission, to find out who is selling guns to the Apache. Charley says he will head North and speak to the Indians as he has an Apache mother.
Lockhart has a beef to settle with Dave and when he spots him corralling some steers opposite his hotel he heads over for a confrontation. A big fight breaks out between them and Will gives him a good whooping and Vic gets involved and they start rolling around in the dust and cattle, a woman on a buggy stops Dave from shooting Will as they roll around.
She is Kate Canaday (Aline MacMahon, All the Way Home) the owner of the Half Moon Ranch and Alec Waggoman’s (Donald Crisp, National Velvet, Lassie Come Home) main rival in the area and when she shows up he stops the fight and tells Will that he will pay for his losses.
Befriended by Kate he goes back to her ranch where she offers him a job but he declines as he has other things on his mind.
A great film with great scenery and great characters like Dave the sadistic heir apparent to the Bur ranch and the hired hand with illusions of grandeur and a powerful man that doesn’t budge an inch.
If you are a western fan this release is definitely for you or a great place to start one. Ace.
New restored 4K film transfer, presented on both Blu-ray and DVD • Restored 2.0 and 5.1 soundtracks, presented in uncompressed PCM and DTS-HD MA respectively on the Blu-ray • English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing • New audio commentary by film critic Adrian Martin • New video interview with critic and novelist Kim Newman • Original theatrical trailer • 32-page booklet featuring a new essay by Philip Kemp, an interview with Anthony Mann, and rare archival imagery
Brand New Masters of Cinema Trailer