Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Backlash (1956)

I would have liked this movie quite a lot except for Donna Reed's character.  She plays a thoroughly unlikeable type with a one-track mind (to get her share of some lost gold).  She's a tough woman, who has been abandoned and has been making her way alone through the world and doing quite well at it.  That's pretty awesome, actually, particularly for a fifties film, and I wouldn't have minded her at all if she didn't inexplicably change her tune three-fourths of the way through.  All of a sudden, for no good reason, she abandons her goal.  Okay, Richard Widmark would be a good enough reason for me... but it's not good enough in the movie because she doesn't even like him, sets him up to be killed more than once... then, inexplicably she starts liking him too.  She does an unexplained one-eighty in personality and goals.

This. Does. Not. Work.  This is bad storytelling, and it ruins an otherwise very strong female character.  I guess I should be used to this, because it happens all the time, but Donna Reed plays a colder customer than most, and so her abrupt change of heart is harder to believe.

Ah well.  On the other hand, I still enjoyed the rest of the movie because of Richard Widmark, the plot, and the other supporting actors.  The plot was quite nifty.  There was an Indian massacre at a place called Gila Valley.  Five men died, one ran out on the others.  Those six men had been partners and had $60,000 in gold between them.  The gold is missing, and no one knows what happened to it or the unknown sixth person.  Jim Slater, Widmark's character, knows his father was one of the men and is trying to find that sixth man to both find out the truth and get revenge for his father's death.  Donna Reed's character is searching for husband, who was also one of the six.  It's a neat setup, and I really liked where it went.

John McIntyre was slyly evil as the head of one side of the range war.  Harry Morgan and Robert J. Wilkes play a violent pair of brothers looking for the gold and Widmark.  Barton MacLane plays a capable Army sergeant who has information Widmark and Reed need.  And William Campbell runs around as a hotshot gunslinger eager to gun down anyone who slights him.

There's some nice action scenes:  a couple of Indian attacks, some shootouts, and a range war.  It has lovely on location scenery and a satisfying ending.  Someone just needs to rewrite Donna Reed's character so she's believable and this would be well-above average for me.

1 comment:

  1. I... I think I may have seen this once! It's sounding very familiar. Especially Donna Reed's character. Hmm. Maybe I caught part of it on AMC in college.