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Monday, July 20, 2009


This Paramount Western mixes Civil War Reconstruction politics with buffo cattle drive theatrics in a theoretically intriguing manner, but under James Hogan (a ‘B’ list megger working with a big budget), it never reaches its potential to excite or unsettle. All the acting feels slightly off-key, including leads Joan Bennett as a hot-headed Dixiecrat with dreams of rebooting the Civil War & Randolph Scott as a forward-thinking ex-Reb who wants to make up with the new USA. Bonus points to Robert Cummings who's pricelessly awful playing a third-wheel Southern gent who's also a never-say-die Confederate. The excesses of Yankee carpetbaggers gets worked pretty hard to make our sympathies drift to the defeated South. But then, the whole narrative leaves a nasty taste in your mouth . . . which is largely what makes the story line hold our attention. If only the execution of the film were on par with Theodore Sparkuhl whose lensing runs the gamut from Golden-Age Hollywood portraiture through muddy realism decades ahead of its time. There’s definitely something going on in here, but you’ll have to work it out for yourself.

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