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THUNDER OVER THE PLAINS (director: André De Toth; screenwriter: Russell Hughes; cinematographer: Bert Glennon; editor: James Moore; music: David Buttolph; cast: Randolph Scott (Captain David Porter), Phyllis Kirk (Norah Porter), Lex Barker (Captain Bill Hodges), Charles McGraw (Ben Westman), Henry Hull (Lt. Col. Chandler), Elisha Cook Jr. (Joseph Standish), Hugh Sanders (H.L. Balfour), James Brown (Conrad), Fess Parker (Kirby), Richard Benjamin (Sgt. Shaw), Jack Woody (Henley), Lane Chandler (Faraday); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: David Weisbart; Warner Bros.; 1953)
“Provides characters with more depth than usually found in this genre.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

André De Toth(“Play Dirty”/”The Mongols”/”The Bounty Hunter”) directs this exciting B western that has an historical flavor, is well-acted and superbly directed. It’s written byRussell Hughes, who provides characters with more depth than usually found in this genre but keeps the plot uncomplicated.

It’s set in 1869 in post-Civil War Texas, which is animpoverished state that has still not yet been readmitted to the Union. The Texans are plagued by crooked government officials and carpetbaggers, who are cheating them and keeping them poor. Balfour (Hugh Sanders) is the slimy cotton dealer carpetbagger and the cowardly Joseph Standish (Elisha Cook Jr.) is the corrupt tax commissioner. The two slimeballs have made a bargain for Standish to keep raising taxes so that Balfour can confiscate the farmer’s cotton in an auction. Ben Westman (Charles McGraw) is the local Texan renegade whose gang robs Balfour and acts as a popular Robin Hood figure. Because of all the robberies the territory is under martial law. The nervous fort commander, Lt. Col. Chandler (Henry Hull), fearing only that he will not get his pension when he soon retires if he messes this carpetbagger situation up, orders Captain David Porter (Randolph Scott), a native Texan sympathetic to the locals,to bring in Westman. When the reluctant Porter can’t, Washington sends reinforcements. The reinforcement commander is the smug green West Point grad Captain Hodges (Lex Barker). The slimy Hodges gets on Porter’s nerves by disobeying his orders and therefore botching the capture of Westman and for forcing himself on Porter’s socialite wife Norah (Phyllis Kirk).

Henley (Jack Woody), the informer leading the army to where Westman and his gang are hiding out, is knifed in the back by Balfour, who refuses to pay the reward money he promised for information on the rebel leader Westman because he wasn’t captured. Balfour frames Westman for the murder, and it’s up to the forthright Porter to bring justice to this region by proving Westman is innocent.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”