(director: Reginald Le Borg; screenwriters: Leonard Lee/Harry J. Essex; cinematographer: Russell Metty; editor: Edward Curtiss; music: Dan Shapiro/Lester Lee; cast: Stephen McNally (Steve Davis/Steve Porter), Alexis Smith (Mary Williams), Ed Begley (Haynes ), Richard Egan (Beale ), James Arness (Russell), Frankie Darro (Rufe), Richard Jaeckel (Nate), Gene Evans (Shep), Dan Riss (George Armstrong), Howard Da Silva (Cavanaugh), Armando Silvestre (Indian Joe), Whit Bissell (Sam Wallace), Roy Roberts (Charles De Haven), Emerson Treacy (Ben); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Aubrey Schenck; Universal; 1950)
“Competent and routine B-western.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Reginald Le Borg (“Voodoo Island “/”War Drums “) helms this competent and routine B-western, that was given the big budget treatment by Universal. It’s helped by the excellent technicolor, the location shots in scenic Wyoming, the fine train scenes as filmed on the Sierra Railroad and the pleasing visuals by cinematographer Russell Metty. Writers Leonard Lee and Harry J. Essex keep things dull but solid, as a cops and robbers tale set in the Old West. The action takes place in 1869, in Wyoming, during the post-Civil War period.
The mail is delivered by rail for the first time in 1869. The program originated under Assistant United States Postmaster George Armstrong (Dan Riss) but is in danger of Congress cutting off funding if the thefts cannot be stopped on the rails. To stop them, Armstrong hires the Secret Service agent Steve Davis to work undercover. He uses as an alias the name Steve Porter.
When Steve’s contact man, the telegraph dispatcher, is found dead, he tracks the killers to a territorial prison by tracing the horseshoe mark left at the scene of the crime. Furthermore he learns that the horse belongs to the warden Haynes (Ed Begley). Steve sets his plan in motion, as he poses as a fugitive bank robber. Meanwhile he is working with his contact man, Indian Joe (Armando Silvestre, acting debut), who poses as a bounty hunter bringing him to prison.
In the slammer, Steve learns how to be a telegraph operator when he makes contact with the former telegraph man Sam Wallace (Whit Bissell), an embittered bank robber because his robbery share was stolen by the gang and is anxious to be free to go after his robbery share. Thereby Steve arranges with Indian Joe for both to escape. Though Sam is killed during the break-out, he leads Steve to one of the key bank robbers, Cavanaugh (Howard da Silva), in Crystal City. In town, Steve meets and courts the attractive saloon singer Mary (Alexis Smith) he met when he first arrived on the job. After meeting Cavanaugh, Steve is brought into the gang. To his surprise, he learns Mary is also part of the gang and the train robbers are the following: Haynes, Cavanaugh, Russell (James Arness) and Nate (Richard Jaeckel).
Mary falls in love with Steve, whom she believes is a bank robber on the lam from prison but sees a future with him if he quits.
The new telegraph dispatcher (Emerson Treacy), secretly working for the gang, warns Mary that Steve is an undercover cop and about to foil their $200,000 train holdup taking place. But Mary chooses to help Steve rather than her insider gang member boyfriend (Roy Roberts), a traitorous government man, who leads the gang with Cavanaugh. Her actions save Steve’s hide and ensures the capture of the gang. For her help Mary is pardoned, and the Wyoming Railroad mail franchise is saved.
REVIEWED ON 4/17/2020 GRADE: B-