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FURY AT FURNACE CREEK (director: H. Bruce Humberstone; screenwriters: Charles G. Booth/Winston Miller/suggested story by David Garth; cinematographer: Harry Jackson; editor: Robert Simpson; cast: Victor Mature (Cash Blackwell), Coleen Gray (Molly Baxter), Glenn Langan (Capt. Rufe Blackwell), Albert Dekker (Leverett, Silver Tycoon), Reginald Gardiner (Capt. Walsh), Fred Clark (Bird), Jay Silverheels (Little Dog), Robert Warwick (Gen. Fletcher Blackwell), Charles Kemper (Peaceful Jones), John Farrell MacDonald (Pops), Charles Stevens (Jose Artego), Roy Roberts (Al Shanks); Runtime: 88; 20th Century Fox; 1948)
“A better than average Western.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A better than average Western, set in the 1880 wilderness of Arizona. Gen. Fletcher Blackwell (Robert Warwick) sends a message telling Capt. Walsh (Reginald Gardiner) who is escorting a wagon train through Apache territory, heading for the fort at Furnace Creek, that he should cancel the escort and rush to another town. The wagon master says, “that’s not an order but a death warrant.” It results in Apache leader Little Dog (Jay Silverheels–he played Tonto in the Lone Ranger TV series) leading an attack on the wagon and massacring everyone at the poorly manned fort.

As a result the treaty is broken with the Indians and the white settlers take over the territory with the help of the cavalry, as the Apaches are wiped out and only Little Dog remains at large. Gen. Blackwell is court-martialed for treason, as he is accused of knowing that there were rich deposits of silver in the Indian territory and of encouraging the attack on the fort so that he could profit from the silver mines once the Indians were kicked out of the territory. Before he dies on the witness stand, he says he never mentioned the silver lodes in the mountains in his official reports because he was afraid the white men, once they knew how rich the Indian land was, would break the treaty with the Indians just like they always do when they find the Indian land is valuable to them.

The general’s two sons, Capt. Rufe Blackwell (Langan) and Cash Blackwell (Mature), each with a different disposition, go about trying to find evidence to clear their father’s name; but, each do it in a different way. Rufe is regular Army and was very close to his father and always backed him, even when Cash broke away from his father and didn’t see him for years because of their clash over lifestyles. They still do not trust each other, with Rufe being the one who is adamantly unforgiving.

Cash is a professional gambler and a gunslinger, who moves to the new rich town of Furnace Creek because he learns that a tycoon named Leverett (Dekker) runs the silver syndicate and is the one who profited from the opening up of the territory. Cash runs into the former CaptainWalsh in the saloon. His testimony convicted his father. Walsh is now a weakling and a penniless drunk. Cash befriends him and buys him drinks in the hope of getting information. Cash also gets the chance to stop a card shark named Bird (Clark) from killing Walsh during a framed card game. Cash gains the confidence of the frightened Walsh, who is scared that he will soon be killed unless he can get out of town and is wavering whether he should tell Cash what he knows. Cash, in the meantime, has been hired by Dekker’s henchman Shanks (Roberts) to be Dekker’s enforcer in the casino, as he is impressed by his ability to handle a gun.

Cash also has time to romance a waitress, Molly (Gray), who falls for him until she finds out he works for Dekker. She believes General Blackwell and Dekker were in cahoots, causing her father to get killed on the wagon train.

When Rufe comes to town, having left the Army to dedicate his life to clearing his father’s name, he complicates things for Cash and refuses to believe his gambler brother isn’t in cahoots with Dekker.

Warning: spoiler to follow in next paragraph.

The film reaches its climactic moments when Walsh is killed by Dekker’s gunman Artego (Stevens), in Molly’s restaurant, just as he finished writing a note confessing his guilt and Blackwell’s innocence. It now becomes clear to the brothers they have the proof to clear their father’s name and tie Dekker in with buying up the land rich in silver and orchestrating the Indian raid by sending the phony message, which he paid Walsh to go along with.

It was crisply directed and well acted, and its quick pace fitted nicely into the stylish way this B & W film was presented.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”