(director: Harold Daniels; screenwriter: story by Edward I. Fessler/Edward I. Fessler; cinematographers: Ted & Vincent Saizis; editor: Maurice Wright; music: Gerald Fried; cast: Peter Graves (Martin Davis), Lita Milan (Marie Hebert), Douglas Fowley (Emil Herbert/Jim Tallant), Tim Carey (Ulysses), Jonathan Haze (Bos), Edwin Nelson (Etienne), Eugene Sonfeld (Jean Titho), (); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: M. A. Ripps; United Artists; 1957)

“Unexceptionally directed.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A black and white low-budget folksy melodrama, shot on location in Barataria Bay, Louisiana. It was unexceptionally directed by actor-turned-director Harold Daniels (“Roadblock”/”House of the Black Death“/”Sword of Venus”). Writer Edward I. Fessler bases the screenplay on his story. It proves to be a weak coming-of-age story, that infers you better fight to get what you want.

The ambitious easterner, the 28-year-old bachelor architect, Martin Davis (Peter Graves), submits a design for the new civic center in New Orleans and the local construction boss, Jim Tallant (Douglas Fowley), invites him to visit to see if he will win the contract competition from the city commissioner. While Martin is at a local carnival in Cajun country, he helps the sexy 17-year-old Cajun crabber Marie Hebert (Lita Milan) get back the money stolen from her by a woman thief.

Marie takes care of her elderly impoverished widowed alcoholic dad, Emil Hebert (Douglas Fowley, in a double role), and lives with him in abject poverty in a rundown shack on the Bayou.

The local storekeeper is the vile Ulysses (Tim Carey), who lusts after Marie. After she rebuffs his crude sexual advances, he sees her with the Yankee and sees red.

Tallant, who befriends nice guy Martin, urges him to sell his abilities to the commissioner in order to get the political handout contract. He warns Martin if he doesn’t fight to get the contract, he won’t get it. To get his juices flowing, Tallant enters the former Cornell rower in the local pirogue race (primitive canoes). But Ulysses beats him when he cuts Martin off before the finish line.

Martin stays in the area to court Marie. When a hurricane hits, her father perishes in it. At his funeral both Martin and Ulysses want to marry the under-aged Marie. Forced into fighting with the repulsive bully, Ulysses, Martin wins both the fight and the girl.

The slight story, more timid than bold, preaches for us to stand up for our rights, but does so in a superficial and unconvincing way.

Bayou (1957)