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SADDLE THE WIND (director: Robert Parrish; screenwriters: story by Thomas Thompson/Rod Serling; cinematographer: George J. Folsey; editor: John McSweeney Jr.; music: Elmer Bernstein; cast: Robert Taylor (Steve Sinclair Double S Owner), Julie London (Joan Blake, Tony’s fiancee), John Cassavetes (Tony Sinclair), Donald Crisp (Dennis Deneen), Charles McGraw (Larry Venables, Gunfighter), Royal Dano (Clay Ellison, Owner of Strip), Richard Erdman (Dallas Hanson, Saddle Tramp), Ray Teal (Brick Larson – Deneen’s Foreman), Nacho Galindo (Manuelo, Double S Cook), Douglas Spencer (Hemp Scribner – Double S Foreman); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Armand Deutsch; MGM; 1958)
“This above average psychological Western is unfortunately static and humorless.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This above average psychological Western is unfortunately static and humorless. It’s based on Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling’s screenplay from a screen story by Thomas Thompson. Julie London as the saloon singer sings the title song and is the female lead. John Cassavetes brings his out of place Method acting to the Western, as a trigger-happy urban juvenile delinquent type. But at least his character is lively and well-acted. Robert Taylor is stout as the bad dude turned good and is fated to confront his unruly younger brother in a possible gun duel. Uneven director Robert Parrish (“Cry Danger”/”The Mob”/”The Wonderful Country”) keeps this one in check and doesn’t get in the way of the fine performances.

Steve Sinclair (Robert Taylor) has been granted some land to be a Colorado rancher by the peace-loving big-time cattle baron Dennis Deneen (Donald Crisp), after working as a foreman for him. Deneen runs the valley and ever since he lost his own son to violence has forbidden anyone to carry firearms. Steve’s a world-weary reformed gunslinger, who now looks after his wild kid brother Tony (John Cassavetes). After just returning from a cattle drive, Tony’s fiancée, Joan Blake (Julie London), a city saloon singer looking for security, will now be staying at their Double S ranch. Her presence doesn’t please Steve, who thinks she’s a fortune hunter that Tony met while living alone in Jeweltown and wouldn’t fit in at the ranch.

When a gunslinger named Larry Venables (Charles McGraw) arrives in town gunning for Steve over a former dispute, the reckless Tony, hoping to get a rep as a gunfighter, guns him down in the street before he can get to Steve. The fast draw Venables is killed because he was distracted by seeing Steve come out of an office and not because Tony is faster. Tony gets even more reckless when he guns down the leader of the settlers, Clay Ellison (Royal Dano), who has a legal claim on a neighboring property known as The Strip. Deneen is unhappy over this violence and orders Steve to control his brother, or else he’ll make them leave the valley (I guess the goodness depicted here is in the form of a benevolent despot). In the meantime, Joan has fallen in love with the more stable brother, and she’s a hot looker.

It reaches a predictable outcome and in a not too thrilling way.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”