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HORIZONS WEST (director: Budd Boetticher; screenwriter: story by Louis Stevens/Louis Stevens; cinematographer: Charles P. Boyle; editor: Ted J. Kent; music: Joseph Gershenson; cast: Robert Ryan (Dan Hammond), Julia Adams (Lorna Hardin), Rock Hudson (Neil Hammond), John McIntire (Ira Hammond), Frances Bavier (Martha Hammond), Raymond Burr (Cord Hardin), Dennis Weaver (Dandy Taylor), James Arness (Tiny McGilligan), Judith Braun (Sally Eaton), John Hubbard (Sam Hunter), Tom Powers (Frank Tarleton), Rodolfo Acosta(General José Escobar Lopez); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Albert J. Cohen; Universal International; 1952)

“Script is too plaintive.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The routine Western tells a familiar story about a power-trip by someone deluded by his megalomania, that turns him suddenly and unconvincingly from a good guy to a real bad guy. Louis Stevens’s story and script is too plaintive and can’t stop using cliches and keeping its story line from being crude. But the top-notch cast kicks up some dust at the climax, which makes things bearable with a few good action sequences and by bringing on some honest drama by having the good younger brother going up against his bad brother. Budd Boetticher (“The Cimarron Kid”/”The Tall T”/”Seminole”)directs as if lost without a solid script from Burt Kennedy.

With the Civil War ended, three weary Confederate soldiers after fighting for four years return home to Austin, Texas, and the Circle H ranch. Tiny McGilligan (James Arness) is the ranch foreman, while Neil and Dan Hammond (Rock Hudson & Robert Ryan) are the brothers whose father Ira (John McIntire) owns the struggling ranch. Younger brother Neil returns to cheerfully help dad on the ranch, the reliable Tiny cheerfully returns to his job, wife and two children, but the sullen ex-major wants to get fast money he sees circulating in town due to the Carpetbaggers and takes a different path. In a poker game with the new eastern money men in town, Dan tries to get into some business deals with the ruthless businessman Cord Hardin (Raymond Burr). But Cord goes into a jealous snit when he notices his sexy wife Lorna (Julia Adams) has eyes for Dan, and insults the poor rancher after getting an IOU for the five thousand dollars Dan lost in poker. Dan decides to go bad in order to become an empire builder and spit in the faces of those who insulted him, and leads a profitable cattle rustling operation by recruiting a gang of ex-soldier dregs camping out by the river.

It all leads to a violent conflict between Cord and Dan, since the rustling takes place only on Cord’s properties or those of his associates and the vengeful Cord retaliates in a losing effort. With the money collected from rustling, Dan convinces the honest chief county clerk, Sam Hunter (John Hubbard), to get rich by becoming crooked, and Sam enables Dan to get inside info on how to legally steal the ranches of those whose deeds are not squared away and the empire-builder gets his empire by taking over their properties on the cheap. Dan also wins the heart of the widow Lorna, but loses his family and the honest locals as he becomes a despicable criminal surrounded by thieves, scoundrels and corrupt officials. Dan can’t escape from a murder charge and is hunted down by the newly appointed marshal–his brother Neil.

It goes down as just another good guys vs. bad guys Western, one that is watchable but lacking any depth and conviction for its tale about greed, corruption, abuse of power and family strife to have an impact.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”