REBEL IN TOWN
(director: Alfred Werker; screenwriter: story & screenplay by Danny Arnold; cinematographer: Gordon Avil; editors: John F. Schreyer; music: Les Baxter; cast: John Payne (John Willoughby), Ruth Roman (Nora Willoughby), J. Carrol Naish (Bedloe Mason), Ben Cooper (Gray Mason), John Smith (Wesley Mason), Ben Johnson (Frank Mason), Cain Mason (Cain Mason), James Griffith (Marshal Adam Russell), Bobby Clark (Petey Willoughby), Mary Adams (Grandma Ackstadt), Mimi Gibson (Lisbeth), Joel Ashley (doctor); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Howard W. Koch; United Artists; 1956-B/W)
“A quality revenge B-western.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A quality revenge B-western finely helmed by Alfred Werker (“The Last Posse”/”He Walked by Night”) and excellently written by Danny Arnold from his own story.
It’s an atmospheric, meaningful and strong character-driven western. It’s also one filled with suspense and intelligence. Set at a time shortly following the Civil War’s end, in the small town of Kittreck Wells, Arizona. The former Union officer John Willoughby (John Payne), his wife Nora (Ruth Roman) and the idolizing his dad 7-year-old son Petey (Bobby Clark) settle on a farm just outside town. On Petey’s birthday he dresses up as a Union soldier and enjoys playing with his birthday gift of two cap pistols and a holster, given to him in town by his Grandma Ackstadt (Mary Adams) and her Petey’s aged granddaughter Lisbeth (Mimi Gibson). Meanwhile Marshal Adam Russell (James Griffith) gets John, still bearing a hatred for the Rebs, to go with him to a neighboring town to arrest the Rebel gang who robbed the bank. The gang patriarch Bedloe Mason (J. Carrol Naish) sends his sons Gray (Ben Cooper), Wesley (John Smith) and Frank (Ben Johnson) into Kittreck Falls for water while he waits for them outside of town in the woods with his other son Cain (Cain Mason). In town, Petey sneaks up on the Rebel brothers and fires his cap pistol. Hearing the gunshot in back of them, the jittery Wesley draws his gun and by accident fatally shoots Petey. Dad returns for Petey’s party and seeks revenge when he learns of Petey’s death. At the gang’s hideout, the sensitive Gray confronts Wesley and bucks his family to go back to town alone to see if the kid is still living and to express his sorrow. As he rides off Wesley knifes him in the back, steals his share of the stolen bank money and after tying him to his horse sends him on his way to town. John, while tracking down the gang, finds Gray unconscious on the trail and has the doctor (Joel Ashley) and Nora nurse him back to health. The psychological western turns supposedly to the Bible to solve its moral conflicts, as the authoritarian Bible quoting patriarch Bedloe says he doesn’t understand how a raised properly family from Alabama could become bandits always on the run. The patriarch believes the only explanation for answers not known can be gotten from the Bible’s message “To trust the Lord.” That simple way of not searching yourself for answers is challenged in the narrative. Also challenged is the macho attitude of the typical western cowboy hero and their obsession with guns and revenge. When the chief villain is finally knifed to death by the grieving father, Bedloe says “what the sons of some men do to the sons of others is the tragedy of the world.”
REVIEWED ON 4/1/2019 GRADE: A- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/