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HIGH LONESOME (director/writer: Alan LeMay; cinematographer: Howard Greene; editor: Jack W. Ogilvie; music: Rudy Schrager; cast: John Barrymore Jr. (Cooncat), Chill Wills (Boatwhistle, Ramrod), John Archer (Pat Farrell), Lois Butler (Meagan Davis), Kristine Miller (Abbey Davis, Farrell’s Girl), Basil Ruysdael (Horse Davis, Abbey & Meagan’s Dad), Jack Elam (Smiling Man aka Bob Jessup), Dave Kashner (Roper the Cajun); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: George Templeton; Eagle-Lion; 1950)
“Irksome revenge Western that fails to resonate.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Irksome revenge Western that fails to resonate. It’s written and directed by Alan LeMay, in his only directorial effort. LeMay will always be remembered for his brilliant novel used by John Ford for The Searchers (1956). Aside from the beautiful photography of the mountain vistas, this one is a dud.

The film is set in the Texas Big Bend country (around Marfa). It features the Davis family’s ranch and how they hold up to a recent strings of killings on their ranch. The film’s teenage hero Cooncat (John Barrymore Jr.) is an unpleasant fellow who ran away from an abusive home and witnessed a recent murder committed by Bob Jessup (Jack Elam) and Roper the Cajun (Dave Kashner). When he tells rancher Horse Davis (Basil Ruysdael) what he saw, no one in his extended family believe him. It seems the ones Cooncat said did the killing died in a range war between the Jessups and Davis clans 15 years previously. They come to the the conclusion Cooncat’s seeing ghosts or he’s the killer, and keep him at the ranch under guard until they find out the truth. The only family member that wants to believe him is the teenage patriarch’s daughter Meagan (Lois Butler). It’s not difficult to predict how things will work out, as the so-called dead men have returned from the dead to wipe out all their foes and the family is unwilling to believe the one who can help them.

The acting is unbearable, with Barrymore putting on lame facial grimaces throughout and the rest of the cast acting as if stuck in a Z film instead of merely a low-budget B film by Eagle-Lion. It’s hard to believe the same man who wrote The Searchers, possibly the best Western ever, is responsible for this fiasco.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”