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DRANGO (directors: Hall Bartlett/Jules Bricken; screenwriter: Hall Bartlett; cinematographer: James Wong Howe; editor: Leon Selditz; music: Elmer Bernstein; cast: Jeff Chandler (Major Clint Drango), John Lupton (Capt. Marc Banning), Joanne Dru (Kate Calder), Julie London (Shelby Ransom), Morris Ankrum (Henry Calder), Ronald Howard (Clay Allen), Donald Crisp (Judge Allen), Barney Phillips (Rev. Giles Cameron),Milburn Stone (Col. Bracken), David Stollery (Jeb Bryant), Walter Sande (Dr. Blair); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hall Bartlett; MGM/UA; 1957)
Underwhelming but thought-provoking post-Civil War drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Hall Bartlett (“Unchained”/”Zero Hour”/”The Caretakers”) co-directs with future long-time TV director Jules Bricken (“Danny Jones”/”Explosion”) this underwhelming but thought-provoking post-Civil War drama, about a small southern town seeking revenge for Union misdeeds and the redemption of a soldier who feels responsible for causing the town so much pain during the war. Incredibly, the script by Bartlett, set in 1865, in rural Georgia, has no African-Americans in the cast nor is slavery ever mentioned. Drango was the first movie produced by Jeff Chandler’ production company, Earlmar Productions. Chandler was the star.

Nine months after General Sherman’s march through Georgia his drunken soldiers plundered the small town of Kennesaw Pass, and many locals still harbor a great hatred for the Union troops. Maj. Clint Drango (Jeff Chandler), a man harboring a desire to make amends for his war crimes during that raid, is assigned to be the military governor of the town and Capt. Marc Banning (John Lupton) is his aide. Though the reasonable major promises Judge Allen (Donald Crisp), the town’s elder statesman, he will be fair and wants only to rebuild the town, he’s greeted with opposition and hatred alike by both the town leaders and ordinary citizens. Union sympathizer Henry Calder (Morris Ankrum), a native resident who was against the Confederate succession from the Union, begs the major to take him to nearby Fort Dalton for protection, as Henry killed a man in self-defense when attacked by a rebel mob for his Union beliefs. The major, determined to restore law and order in town, refuses and orders a jury trial in town. Instead vigilante justice is taken, as the judge’s crazed son, Clay Allen (Ron Howard, son of British actor Leslie), a Klu Klux Klantype ofdissident, visualizes that he will lead the south to rise again and forms a secret group of Confederate guerrilla fighters who take the prisoner from his Union jailer and lynch him. Henry’s distraught daughter Kate (Joanne Dru) blames the major for her dad’s death. Meanwhile Clay’s wealthy Southern belle plantation owner girlfriend, Shelby Ransom (Julie London, in a non-singing role), provides Clay’s men with shelter in her mansion and financial backing. Things hit a boiling point in the climax, as one of the leading town citizens comes to his senses at last and prevents a bloodbath by resorting to carry out a very difficult action to restore peace.

James Wong Howe’s stunning black-and-white photography (filmed on location at Greenwood Plantation, a Louisiana estate), gives the somber film the grim look it feeds off. Though uneven, it’s still watchable and offers more substance than your average Western. Elmer Bernstein wrote the popular twangy pop title song for the movie, with lyrics by Alan Alch and is sung by cowboy actor Rex Allen.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”