THREE VIOLENT PEOPLE (director: Rudolph Maté; screenwriters: James Edward Grant/story by Leonard Praskins & Barney Slater; cinematographer: Loyal Griggs; editor: Alma Macrorie; music: Walter Scharf; cast: Charlton Heston (Capt. Colt Saunders), Anne Baxter (Lorna Hunter Saunders), Gilbert Roland (Innocencio Ortega, Grand Vacaro), Tom Tryon (Beauregard ‘Cinch’ Saunders), Forrest Tucker (Deputy Commissioner Cable), Bruce Bennett (Commissioner Harrison), Elaine Stritch (Ruby LaSalle), Barton MacLane (Yates), John Harmon (Massey), Bobby Blake (Rafael Ortega); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hugh Brown; Paramount Pictures; 1956)
“Unappealing character driven Western set in the post-Civil War Texas.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This slight B-Western with an A-caliber cast re-teamed Charlton Heston with his Ten Commandments co-star Anne Baxter. Both give poor performances, as their hammy acting made this Western soap far roo soapy. Rudolph Maté (“The Far Horizons”/”The Barbarians”/”D.O.A.”) never can do much with this unappealing character driven Western set in the post-Civil War Texas. It’s based on a story by Leonard Praskins & Barney Slater and written by James Edward Grant.
Haughty, hot-headed, humorless, hero Confederate officer Capt. Colt Saunders (Charlton Heston) returns after four years at war to his hometown and the cattle baron finds there’s a corrupt provisional government that curries favor to lowlife Yankee carpetbaggers, Southerners are openly insulted in the street by the carpetbaggers and that there’s a garrison of Union soldiers stationed in town. Before you can say meeting-on-the-cute, Colt falls for a Southern belle named Lorna Hunter (Anne Baxter) who just arrived by stagecoach. She suckers the wealthy gallant Reb into marrying her after he’s fooled into thinking she saved his $900 in gold coins when he was knocked cold in a street brawl with carpetbaggers while defending her honor.
The wealthy Bar S rancher soon learns from one of the carpetbaggers, Lorna’s former customer from St. Louis, that his pregnant wife is a prostitute and he realizes that he’s been duped into the marriage and the macho man has to deal with that blow to his pride. If that wasn’t enough, Colt learns from Innocencio (Gilbert Roland), his loyal Mexican-American foreman, that few of the ranch’s cattle remain as they were taken by the carpetbaggers. Furthermore the murderous crooked commissioner (Bruce Bennett) wants $16,000 due on unjust taxes for the ranch, as they are intent on stealing his land. This leads to Colt uniting with the surviving Texas ranchers against the land grabbing carpetbaggers. There’s even more bad news, as Colt learns that his prodigal brother Beauregard, better known as Cinch (Tom Tryon), an embittered man, has also returned home though disinherited by his grandfather. Cinch is offered a share in the ranch by Colt, who stills feels guilty about a childhood accident in which his younger brother lost his right arm in which he heroically performed the amputation. But the misguided Cinch is so filled with hatred and envy that he sides with the carpetbaggers and joins forces with the commissioner’s deputy, a ruthless gunslinger named Cable (Forrest Tucker).
The climax has brother against brother until Cinch at the last moment is double-crossed by the commissioner, and the brothers turn on the ruthless carpetbaggers as everything gets put back in order in the action-packed gun-duel ending. But the whole thing seems as worthless as Confederate money. By the way, your guess is as good as mine as to who the third violent character from the title is after Heston and Tryon–especially since so many of the lesser characters are violent and the assumed third party Roland (a warm-hearted family man with five sons) is tough but not necessarily violent.
REVIEWED ON 1/4/2009 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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