Jack McCall, Desperado (1953)


(director: Sidney Salkow; screenwriters: story by David Chandler/John O’Dea; cinematographer: Henry Freulich; editor: Aaron Stell; music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff; cast: George Montgomery (Jack McCall), Angela Stevens (Rose Griffith), Douglas Kennedy (‘Wild’ Bill Hickok), James Seay (Bat McCall, Jack’s Cousin), William Tannen (Spargo), Eugene Iglesias (Grey Eagle, Red Cloud’s Son), Jay Silverheels (Red Cloud, Sioux Chief), John Hamilton (Col. Cornish, 22nd Cavalry, CSA), Selmer Jackson (Col. Brand, 81st Volunteers, US Arrmy); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sam Katzman; Columbia; 1953)

“This routine revisionist B-film Western is set during the Civil War.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

One of the few movies that casts Wild Bill Hickok as a snarky villainous killer. This routine revisionist B-film Western is set during the Civil War. B-film director Sidney Salkow (“The Adventures of Martin Eden”/”The Murder Game”/ “The Iron Sheriff”) bases it on the story by David Chandler; it’s written by John O’ Dea.

While wealthy Southerner Jack McCall is fighting for the Union, he’s falsely accused of being a spy and sentenced to be executed for treason (he was tricked by a small group of Reb troops in Union uniforms into giving away Yankee positions). Jack escapes and flees to his parents’ plantation, but the Union soldiers follow. While Jack escapes again, Sgt. Hickok (Douglas Kennedy) kills his father and Jack’s envious cousin Bat (James Seay), also fighting for the Union, kills his mother. Jack hides from both sides during the war, but after the conflict tries to clear his name by locating the Reb soldier who knows that he’s not a spy. The Reb turns out to be a bad dude named Spargo (William Tannen), who will testify only when offered $1,000.

On the way to testify, Jack helps escort a pretty young lady named Rose (Angela Stevens) to town after her horse bolted. But they first stop off at Jack’s plantation to get the money for Spargo. There Jack discovers that Bat and Hickok have taken over his home, and Spargo is bought off to side with Hickok that Jack was a spy. This will put them on a collision course, as Jack will tail them to Deadwood City, in the Dakota Territory, where Hickok is marshal and working a deal to steal gold from the Sioux he befriended. Jack will get his revenge on both men, and will go to trial for killing Hickok and have to explain why the killing was justified.

There’s plenty of action, but it’s all so predictable.