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COLORADO TERRITORY (director: Raoul Walsh; screenwriters: John Twist/Edmund H. North/based on the screenplay for High Sierra by John Huston and W.R.Burnett and Burnett’s novel of High Sierra; cinematographer: Sid Hickox; editor: Owen Marks; music: David Buttolph; cast: Joel McCrea (Wes McQueen), Virginia Mayo (Colorado Carson), Dorothy Malone (Julie Ann Winslow), Henry Hull (Fred Winslow), John Archer (Reno Blake), James Mitchell (Duke Harris), Morris Ankrum (U.S. Marshall), Victor Kilian (Sheriff), Ian Wolfe (Homer Wallace),Maudie Prickett(Mrs. Wallace), Basil Ruysdael(Dave Rickard, The Old Man), Frank Puglia (Brother Thomas), Harry Woods(Pluthner); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Anthony Veiller; Warner Bros; 1949)

“Throws mud all over Horace Greeley’s credo that the West is a place of opportunity.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Raoul Walsh (“The Big Trail”/”Battle Cry“/”White Heat”) directs with white heat this exciting but bleak classic western set in 1871, a brilliant remake of his 1941 gangster film High Sierra. The pic subs Joel McCrea’s noble world-weary career-criminal interpretation for Humphrey Bogart’s laconic noble one. It’s based on W.R. Burnett’s novel and is written byJohn Twist and Edmund H. North.

Notorious bank robberWes McQueen (Joel McCrea) is abetted in his escape from a rural Missouri prison by crime boss Dave Rickard (Basil Ruysdael), and heads to the Colorado Territory to meet his old pal who arranged for his escape. In the Indian ghost city, in the mountains, Todos Santos, Wes meets Reno Blake (John Archer) and Duke Harris (James Mitchell), who are using the place as a hide-out. They have been hired as the undependable green train robbers to partner with the veteran Wes. Reno has hooked up with the desperate El Paso dance hall girl Colorado (Virginia Mayo), a half-breed. Though Wes is determined to change his life and go straight as a farmer, he agrees to one more heist of a train for Dave’s sake when he discovers his old pal is broke and dying.

On the stage to the Colorado Territory Wes met decent single father Fred Winslow (Henry Hull) and his unhappy pretty daughter Julie Ann (Dorothy Malone), who have purchased from a real estate agent a ranch never seen and discover they’ve been ripped off. Wes is attracted to Julie Ann because she reminds him of the way a former deceased girlfriend looked and lays a $1,000 on Fred to fix the place up. But is told by Fred not to count on his daughter’s love because she’s sweet on a rich boy back home in Georgia, whose upper-class family won’t let him marry beneath him. Later Julie Ann will try and betray the outlaw to the law, even though he’s been kind to her and her pop.

Wes doesn’t trust the insider man on the heist, gabby train conductor Homer Wallace (Ian Wolfe), nor does he trust the unprofessional Duke and Reno or the third partner in the gang Pluthner (Harry Woods). His suspicions pay off momentarily in triumph, as he grabs the loot before they can double-cross him and escapes in the New Mexico mountains with his soulmate lover Colorado and with the fortune in loot. But like the previous pic, the doomed lovers cannot escape their fate and are gunned down by the posse.

Filmed in b & w and given a brilliant film noir look by cinematographer Sid Hickox, Colorado Territory throws mud all over Horace Greeley’s credo that the West is a place of opportunity.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”