RAGE AT DAWN
(director: Tim Whelan; screenwriters: story by Frank Gruber/Horace McCoy; cinematographer: Ray Rennahan; editor: Harry Marker; music: Paul Sawtell; cast: Randolph Scott (James Barlow), Forrest Tucker (Frank Reno), Mala Powers (Laura Reno), J. Carrol Naish (Simeon Reno), Edgar Buchanan (Judge Hawkins), Myron Healey (John Reno), Howard Petrie (Lattimore, Prosecuting Attorney), Ray Teal (Sheriff of Seymour), Denver Pyle (Clint Reno), William Forrest (Amos Peterson), Trevor Bardette (Fisher), Kenneth Tobey (Monk Claxton), Richard Garland (Bill Reno), Arthur Space (Murphy, Bartender); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Nat Holt; Good Times Home Video; 1955)
“The action scenes are carried off very well.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Director Tim Whelan (“Nightmare”/”Action for Slander”/”Badman’s Territory”), in one of his later films, bases the routine oater on the real-life exploits of the infamous Reno gang. Whelan was an American director who earned his rep in England making comedies but when he returned to Hollywood before WWII he was asked to make action pics and westerns. It’s taken from a story by Frank Gruber and sharply written by Horace McCoy.
It opens in 1866 with the Reno Brothers gang–leader Frank (Forrest Tucker), heavy drinker Simeon (J. Carrol Naish), follower John (Myron Healey) and youngest brother Bill Reno (Richard Garland)–riding into North Vernon, Indiana, to rob the bank. The gang rides into a trap, as the lawmen who were expecting them open fire as they enter town and kill Bill. Back in the ranch home of their sister Laura Reno (Mala Powers) in Seymour, Indiana, who reluctantly keeps house for them, the gang discusses what went wrong and grieve the death. After suspecting honest farmer brother Clint (Denver Pyle) of being the rat, they discover that the bartender Murphy (Arthur Space) was the squealer after getting Sim drunk to talk about the heist and that he’s a secret agent working for Peterson’s Detective Agency. They thereby torch him. The agency then hires former Confederate spy James Barlow (Randolph Scott), a new special agent from Chicago, to bring the outlaws to justice. Barlow sets himself up as a train robber and arrives in Seymour posing as an artist and passes around the identifiable train robbery money. He soon finds himself romantically involved with Laura, against the objections of the hotheaded Frank. The town’s crooked judge (Edgar Buchanan), sheriff (Ray Teal) and Prosecuting Attorney (Howard Petrie), put in office by the Reno gang and getting a commission on every robbery by them, make a deal with Barlow not to turn him in if he works with them and cuts them in on all future robberies. They then force the gang to have Barlow ride with them. Events heat up and Barlow sets up the gang in what turns out to be a bloody train robbery at dawn (hence the title), where after a shootout the gang is all arrested. But Barlow can’t prevent an angry lynch mob of town-people from breaking into jail and stringing them up for all the evil things they did in their town.
The action scenes are carried off very well, but there’s not much else that’s special–except for Randolph Scott again making for a good hero.
REVIEWED ON 9/25/2006 GRADE: B-