USA / Columbia / 74 minutes / 1959 Filmed in Cinemascope
Writers: Budd Boetticher, Burt Kennedy / Director: Budd Boetticher
Cast: Randolph Scott, Nancy Gates, Claude Akins, Skip Homeier, Richard Rust, Rand Brooks, Dyke Johnson, Foster Hood, Joe Molina
Former Matador and genre expert Boetticher may rework The Searchers for his plot, but this gutsy Western is no cheap copy. Jefferson Cody (Randolph Scott) travels the west in the hope of finding his wife, a prisoner of the Comanches. Locating another woman captive (Nancy Gates) he frees her and they travel back to her husband.
En route, a trio of gunslingers (Claude Akins, Skip Homeier, Richard Rust) ambush them, thinking Cody is the kidnapper and they can claim a reward by killing him. Cody draws his weapons, ready to fight to the death to ensure her freedom, and his lifelong quest can continue…
Scott, the rugged leading man (and producer), did not go for histrionics and his performances typify a slow-burn approach to acting. He worked with Boetticher on eight Westerns including The Tall T. This history of collaboration makes for a mutual familiarity which added credibility to their projects.
Released at a point when the genre was waning, the film adds romance, intrigue and young characters to hook contemporary audiences. Burt Kennedy, another regular in the director’s squad, contributes a clever script adding tone and menace in place of wordy speeches and exposition.
The film is comprised only of exterior shots, giving Charles Lawton JR free reign to capture memorable locations which complement the narrative. The spirit of John Ford – the director’s mentor – hovers over the project, and Boetticher emulates the strength of story and depth of character that were a trademark of Ford’s unparalleled genius with horse operas.