(director: Joseph Kane; screenwriters: Kenneth Gamet/DeVallon Scott/based on a Zane Grey story; cinematographer: Jack Marta; editor: Richard L. Van Enger; music: Victor Young. Song “The Maverick Queen” by Victor Young and Ned Washington, sung by Joni James; cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Kit Banion), Barry Sullivan (Jeff Younger), Scott Brady (Sundance), Mary Murphy (Lucy Lee), Wallace Ford (Jamie), Howard Petrie (Butch Cassidy), Jim Davis (Stranger, the real Jeff Younger), Emile Meyer (Leo Malone), Walter Sande (Sheriff Wilson), George Keymas (Muncie); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Herbert J. Yates; Republic Pictures; 1956)
“Stanwyck’s performance is fiery.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This post-Civil War Western was the last big budget studio film for Joseph Kane (“Hoodlum Empire”/”Dakota”/”Flame of Barbary Coast”). The film was shot in Warner’sbold Trucolor and was the first Warner film to use their widescreen process of Naturama. The B-film studio was upgrading into making A-films after its success with The Quiet Man (1952). The film was based on a Zane Grey story, the 40ish rancher Barbara Stanwyck’s favorite author, and was a story completed by his son Romer. The screenplay was credited to Kenneth Gamet and DeVallon Scott. It was shot near Silverton, Colorado, where George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) would be shot later.
Kit Banion (Barbara Stanwyck) owns the Maverick Queen gambling house in Rock Springs, Wyoming, and is the only cattle buyer in town and a cattle rustler in league with the notorious Wild Bunch gang led by Butch Cassidy (Howard Petrie) and his main man Sundance (Scott Brady). The outlaws live in a secret secluded hideout at a place called Hole-in-the-Wall, where they bunk down after they rustle and rob trains in the lawless Colorado Territory.
To break up the Wild Bunch gang a gunslinger Pinkerton agent poses as the outlaw Jeff Younger (Barry Sullivan), whose uncles are the Younger brothers from the James Gang, and was just released from jail after serving a three-year stretch. On the trail the Pinkerton agent, using the name Jeff Young, stops Sundance from rustling the cattle of struggling rancher Lucy Lee (Mary Murphy), who inherited the ranch after her father was killed by the Wild Bunch.
In Rock Springs, Kit dumps slobbering lover Sundance for the stranger, as she pines for a real man. Hired as a faro dealer, the undercover lawman, now calling himself Jeff Younger, gets tapped to help Butch Cassidy rob a train of $50,000 and afterwards gets to reside in the gang’s hideout. But Lucy’s untrustworthy slimy cook, Jamie (Wallace Ford), working as a spy for the gang, tells the gang that the stranger was the one who thwarted the rustling of Lucy’s cattle. Then the real Younger outlaw (Jim Davis) shows up and the Pinkerton man goes on the run, but is caught by the gang. Kit determines she would rather die saving this good man she fell in love with than continue her criminal ways and frees him. Leo Malone (Emile Meyer) is the Pinkerton boss who forms a posse with the honest sheriff (Walter Sande) and they take down the gang and save Lucy and the Pinkerton undercover man, but are too late to save Kit.
The scenery is stunning, Stanwyck’s performance is fiery and the pic is good enough to be a fair period piece and an entertaining watch.
REVIEWED ON 12/26/2012 GRADE: B