ESCORT WEST (director: Francis D. Lyon; screenwriters: Leo Gordon/Fred Hartsook; cinematographer: William H. Clothier; editor: Otto Ludwig; music: Henry Vars; cast: Victor Mature (Ben Lassiter), Elaine Stewart (Beth Drury), Faith Domergue (Martha Drury), Reba Waters (Abbey Lassiter), Noah Beery [Jr.] (Lt. Jamison), Leo Gordon (Vogel), Rex Ingram (Nelson Water), John Hubbard (Lt. Weeks), Harry Carey Jr. (Travis), Slim Pickens (Wheeler), Roy Barcroft (Doyle), X. Brands (Tago), William Ching (Capt. Poole); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Nate H. Edwards/Robert E. Morrison/John Wayne; United Artists; 1958)
“A tolerable low-budget B Western.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A tolerable low-budget B Western directed without great effort by Francis D. Lyon (“The Money Jungle”/”South Seas Adventure”/”The Oklahoman”) and scripted by Leo Gordon (he also has a small part) and Fred Hartsook.
It’s set in Nevada just after the Civil War. Captain Ben Lassiter (Victor Mature), still clad in his Confederate uniform, and his ten-year-old daughter Abbey (Reba Waters) are going to the Oregon Territory to start a new life. At a rest stop at Fenniman’s Station, they encounter a Union Army pay wagon escort under the command of Lt. Weeks (John Hubbard). Traveling with the soldiers are sisters Martha (Faith Domergue) and Beth Drury (Elaine Stewart), who plan to join with another military squad led by Beth’s fiancé, Capt. Howard Poole (William Ching), and go West with them to a settlement in Oregon. Martha hates the Rebs because her fiancé was killed during the war, and takes an immediate dislike toward Ben. When the escort and the Drury sisters depart, a group of Modoc Indians trap Poole in an ambush and wait in ambush to attack the escort. They also attack Fenniman’s Station and kill everyone there. Ben decides to go off the trail and warn Weeks of the Indians. The Modocs are led by the renegade Tago (X. Brands), a former army scout with a chip on his shoulder. Ben feels it’s his chivalrous obligation to escort the sisters to safety, and he does so after he locates them in hiding after surviving the attack. He also promises to bring the army payroll to Poole, which the Indians left behind in the raid.
Predictably there’s a questioning of the gruff Ben’s veracity over returning the payroll, the still lingering wartime attitudes, the ensuing skirmishes with the Modocs and the uninteresting romance that develops between Ben and Beth. The dull melodramatics are broken up by the crisp action scenes, which enable the film to at least pass muster.
REVIEWED ON 3/27/2007 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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