TUMBLEWEED (director: Nathan Juran; screenwriters: John Meredyth Lucas/based on the novel by Kenneth Perkins; cinematographer: Russell Metty; editor: Virgil Vogel; music: Joseph Gershenson; cast: Audie Murphy (Jim Harvey), Lori Nelson (Laura Saunders), Chill Wills (Sheriff Murchoree), Roy Roberts (Nick Buckley), Russell Johnson (Lam Blanden), Madge Meredith (Sarah Blanden), Ross Elliott (Seth Blanden), K. T. Stevens (Louella Buckley), Lee Van Cleef (Marv, deputy), Ralph Moody (Aguila), Eugene Iglesias (Tigre), Phil Chambers (Ross), Lyle Talbot (Max Weber ); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ross Hunter; Universal-International; 1953)
“The viewer gets their money’s worth in thrills with this solid entertainment Audie Murphy vehicle.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The action-packed Technicolor Western is based on the novel by Kenneth Perkins and is written by John Meredyth Lucas. Veteran B film director Nathan Juran (“Hellcats of the Navy”/”Attack of the 50 Foot Woman”/”Jack the Giant Killer”)keeps it fast-paced and straightforward.The viewer gets their money’s worth in thrills with this solid entertainment Audie Murphy vehicle. The Audie Murphy character must prove he’s not a coward when accused by the town of deserting a wagon train of settlers attacked by Yaqui Indians.
Newly hired guide Jim Harvey (Audie Murphy) encounters on the desert trail wounded Yaqui Indian Tigre (Eugene Iglesias), the son of warlike Chief Aguila (Ralph Moody), and Jim uses his knife to remove the white man’s bullet from Tigre’s body to save his life. Jim has been hired by Seth Blanden (Ross Elliott) to take three wagon trains to Borax, where he inherited a big spread ranch from his father that he shares with his oily bachelor brother Lam (Russell Johnson)–who already resides on the ranch. Other travelers include Seth’s wife Sarah and their baby, and also Sarah’s pretty single sister Laura Saunders (Lori Nelson). Sarah is trying to push Lam on her sister, but Laura doesn’t care for him–she has her eye on hunky Jim.
Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.
The wagon train is raided by Aguila’s war party. When Jim determines things are hopeless, he hides the women in a mountain opening and attempts to make peace with Aquila on the fact he befriended his son. Instead the ruthless Aquila carries out the raid and kills everyone but the hidden women, and tells Jim he will be tortured to death in the morning and that a white man tipped him off about the wagons. Luckily for Jim, Tigre’s mother is grateful that Jim Saved her son’s life and cuts him free. When Jim arrives in Borax, the hostile town wants to lynch him for deserting the wagon train. For his own protection, Sheriff Murchoree (Chill Wills) places Jim in jail to await a chance for the sheriff to let him go when the town isn’t looking. But the deputies plot with the town to turn over the prisoner to a lynch mob. Before that happens, Tigre stabs to death the loudmouth trapper Ross (Phil Chambers) watching the jail and Jim escapes. Jim’s luck changes when a sympathetic rancher named Buckley (Roy Roberts) thinks he understands Jim’s plight from his own experience of being falsely accused of a serious crime and lets him take his most awkward looking but nevertheless his best horse called Tumbleweed to go to Aquila in Indian territory to clear his name for the white folks in town and from the pursuing posse. It leads to a drawn out action-packed ending in the mountain cliffs of Coyote Spring, that sees a fight between the posse and Aquila’s war party and a fight to death between the greedy snake-like white man who would kill his own brother to own the land outright in which he recently discovered has valuable silver ore deposits buried in the earth.
The film’s best line has Ross telling Laura: “Fly with jailbirds and you get dirty wings.”
REVIEWED ON 4/8/2012 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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