TROOPER HOOK (director/writer: Charles Marcus Warren; screenwriters: Martin Berkeley/David Victor/Herbert Little Jr./story by Jack Schaefer; cinematographer: Ellsworth Fredericks; editor: Fred W. Berger; music: Gerald Fried; cast: Joel McCrea (Sergeant Clovis Hook), Barbara Stanwyck (Cora Sutliff,), Earl Holliman (Jeff Bennett), Edward Andrews (Charlie Travers), John Dehner (Fred Sutliff), Susan Kohner (Consuela, Senora Sandoval’s Granddaughter), Royal Dano (Mr. Trude, Stage Driver), Celia Lovsky (Senora Sandoval), Stanley Adams (Heathcliff, the Windmill Salesman), Terry Lawrence (Quito), Rodolfo Acosta (Nanchez), Sheb Wooley (Cooter Brown), Richard Shannon (Trooper Ryan), Patrick O’Moore(Colonel Adam Weaver); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sol Baer Fielding; United Artists; 1957)
“A not very convincing social conscience western, but one that has its heart in the right place to get a better take on the racial attitudes of the period.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A not very convincing social conscience western, but one that has its heart in the right place to get a better take on the racial attitudes of the period. The topical drama hits a nerve with its 1950’s viewers by dropping on them hot-button issues of racism, rape, half-breeds and sexism. Director Charles Marcus Warren (“Hellgate”/”Arrowhead”/”Seven Angry Men”) clumsily mishandles the action scenes and the pic is too talky for long stretches.
Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.
A U.S. Cavalry platoon led by Sergeant Clovis Hook (Joel McCrea) capture the renegade butcher Apache chief Nanchez (Rodolfo Acosta) and his band of braves. They also free his captured white woman wife, Cora Sutliff (Barbara Stanwyck), and the little boy Quito (Terry Lawrence) she had with the chief while kidnapped. The chief is escorted to imprisonment in a fort, while mom refuses to be separated from her half-breed son and clams up enduring the insults from bigoted whites. But Hook wins her over by showing her sympathy and respect. Mother and son are then escorted in a stagecoach by Hook to her hubby (John Dehner) of nine years. He lives alone in his remote San Miguel ranch, in a small town near Tucson. But hubby refuses to accept the half-breed boy as his own, and the marriage hits rock bottom. The climax has the escaped Nanchez attack the ranch to get back his son, and then getting into a deadly gunfight with the rancher that has both men slain. This contrived ending allows Cora to start life anew with her son.
The atypical western is too downbeat, talky and slow-moving to be entertaining, but Stanwyck and McCrea are just fine and it does a nice job of pressing its lead characters to delve into any previously unexplored prejudices they may have held.
Tex Ritter sings the title song throughout.
REVIEWED ON 10/3/2013 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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