THE BIG LAND (aka: STAMPEDE)
(director: Gordon Douglas; screenwriters: from the novel Buffalo Grass by Frank Gruber/David Dortort/Martin Rackin; cinematographer: John Seitz; editor: Thomas Reilly; music: David Buttolph; cast: Alan Ladd (Chad Morgan), Virginia Mayo (Helen Jagger), Anthony Caruso (Brog), Edmund O’Brien (Joe Jagger), Julie Bishop (Kate Johnson), Don Castle (Tom Draper), John Qualen (Sven Johnson), James Seay (Ben), James Anderson (Cole), David Ladd (David Johnson), Jack Wraither Jr. (Olaf Johnson), Don Kelly (Billy); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: George C. Bertholu; Warner Bros.; 1957)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Gordon Douglas (“In Like Flint”/”Them!”/”Saps at Sea”)directs this routine oater that’s set right after the Civil War. It’s bearable when on a cattle drive and most alive in the final gun duel between the villains and the good guy. It’s based on the novel Buffalo Grass by Frank Gruber and is flatly written by David Dortort and Martin Rackin. The pic has no sizzle, but at least it stars Alan Ladd to give it some heroic cowboy energy. Ladd’s own Jaguar company produced the film.
After serving as an officer in the Confederate Army Chad Morgan (Alan Ladd) returns home at the war’s end to his Texas ranch and because the “the east needs beef” leads a long cattle drive of 2,000 herd from Texas to Missouri, where there’s a link to the railroad. But crooked Missouri cattle trader Brog (Anthony Caruso) swindles the Texas cowboys by offering an insulting low price for the cattle. The men are upset with Chad, who feels responsible for the loss and decides not to return immediately to Texas. After saving the down-and-out Joe Jagger (Edmund O’Brien) from a lynch mob because the alcoholic tried stealing a bottle of whiskey in a local stable boarding house, the two team up. On the trail, they are fed at the farm of Sven Johnson (John Qualen) and his widowed daughter-in-law Kate (Julie Bishop), whose husband died on their journey west. When the local farmers discuss their problem of delivering grain to the railroad a couple hundred miles away, Chad suggests they need a rail spur to the area. Joe chips in that he’s an architect who once worked for the railroad and that Tom Draper (Don Castle), the fiancé of his sister, a Kansas City saloon singer named Helen (Virginia Mayo), is a big shot executive with the railroads. In Kansas City the oddball partners work out a deal that has the railroad build a spur in rural Kansas and the Kansas Swedes known by the Johnson settlers chip in to build a town that’s designed by the reformed alcoholic Joe. Meanwhile Chad returns to Texas and convinces the other ranchers to bring their cattle to the new town in Kansas, assuring them that this time they will get a fair deal because of the competition from many legitimate cattle buyers. Trouble comes when Brog and his gang intimidate the cattle buyers and, in the new town without a law officer, it’s up to the returning Chad to make sure pioneer style justice is served to the killer Brog. Chad also has time to steal Helen from nice guy Tom.
REVIEWED ON 9/29/2012 GRADE: C+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/