VIOLENT MEN, THE
(director: Rudolph Maté; screenwriters: from the novel Rough Company by Donald Hamilton/Harry Kleiner; cinematographers: W. Howard Greene/Burnett Guffey; editor: Jerome Thoms; music: Max Steiner; cast: Glenn Ford (John Parrish), Barbara Stanwyck (Martha Wilkison), Edward G. Robinson (Lew Wilkison), Dianne Foster (Judith Wilkison), Brian Keith (Cole Wilkison), May Wynn (Caroline Vail), William Phipps (Bud Hinkleman), Richard Jaeckel (Wade Matlock), Willis Bouchey (Sheriff Martin Kenner), Lita Milan (Elena), James Westerfield (Sheriff Magruder); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lewis J. Rachmil; Columbia; 1955)
“Robinson, Ford, Stanwyck and Keith know how to act.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Rudolph Maté (“DOA”/”The Dark Past”/”When Worlds Collide”) directs this well-acted land fight Western that’s based on the novel Rough Company by Donald Hamilton and written by Harry Kleiner. It has wheelchair-bound cattle baron, the snarling greedy Anchor Ranch owner, Lew Wilkison (Edward G. Robinson), obsessed on building an empire in the valley by driving off all the small ranchers by force. John Parrish (Glenn Ford) is a former Cavalry captain who arrived in town three years ago with a bad bullet wound hoping the climate out West would help him recover while he bought a small ranch. Now that his wound has healed and he has fallen in love with farmer neighbor Caroline Vail (May Wynn), he plans on selling out to Wilkison and marrying Caroline and going east. Urged by the small landowners to stay and fight, he tells them “It’s not my war.” But after given a ridiculously low price for the ranch by Lew and when his ranch hand Bud Hinkleman gets gunned down by Lew’s psychopathic hired gun hand Wade Matlock (Richard Jaeckel), Parrish decides to stay and fight. Wilkison’s ranch is run by his mean-spirited younger brother Cole (Brian Keith), who is ruthless in his methods of kicking ranchers off their property. He was called back by Lew’s wife Martha (Barbara Stanwyck), after years of having a spat with his brother, who is having an illicit affair with him and hopes to dump hubby once he gives her the whole valley. Cole was Martha’s girl before Lew stole her away because he had a ranch. The older brother became crippled twelve years ago fighting with nesters and has been a bitter man ever since, and his wife resents being married to half a man.
Warning: spoiler to follow.
Making use of his military experience Parrish allows his ranch to be burned down by Cole’s men and waits in ambush to kill eight of the bad guy’s men, and then gives Lew a taste of his own medicine as he burns down Anchor after setting a cattle stampede. The action comes in time to save it from its domestic soap opera, as Martha was with Cole during the fire and left Lew to die in the fire. The illicit lovers come out in the open and Cole dumps his Mexican girlfriend Elena (Lita Milan). In the meantime Lew and his feisty preachy pacifist daughter Judith (Dianne Foster) are taken hostage by Parrish. To prevent a bloody range war, Judith gives an anti-war speech to the peaceful small landowners and Lew repents. The hostages go with Parrish to Anchor, where Lew confronts crooked sheriff Magruder (James Westerfield) and the hired guns he deputized to drive off the others in the valley on Cole’s orders, and dismisses them. Then Parrish kills Cole in a gun duel and Elena kills Martha. Disillusioned with Caroline’s yapping about going back east, Parrish turns his romantic attention to Judith.
The story and the dialogue might not be so hot, but Robinson, Ford, Stanwyck and Keith know how to act.
REVIEWED ON 6/18/2006 GRADE: B+