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Saturday, May 15, 2010

ALONG THE GREAT DIVIDE (1951)


In his first oater, Kirk Douglas plays a U.S. Marshall who steps in to stop a lynching. The arm of the law is something new in the territory, but from now on everybody gets a fair trial. Walter Brennan is the oddly ungrateful fellow with the rope around his neck. He claims he’s innocent, but Douglas doesn’t care. He’s just doing his job. Viewers may just wish he’d left things alone once they hear Brennan taunt him with umpteen renditions of ‘Down In the Valley.’ Maybe that’s why Virginia Mayo, in deglamourized mode, is so darn eager to help her old man escape. But it’s probably that pesky posse of vigilantes. Veteran helmer Raoul Walsh made his share of sharp & tangy Westerns, but this ain’t one of them. There’s some nice irony in showing how many people die so that Douglas can stop a lynching, but the bones on this story were picked clean long ago. Lenser Sid Hickox lays on the red filter to get those glowering b&w skies, but neither he nor Walsh can vivify those airless studio sound-stage exteriors.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Try PURSUED/'47, to see what Walsh can do in this vein.

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