Remember the big, handsome lug in SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS/’54? The bro’ who couldn’t sing or dance? That square peg in a round hole was Jeff Richards, an M-G-M contract player granted a spot of star-in-the-making exposure. Here, opportunity knocks by way of a mean little Western that didn’t pay off career-wise. Likewise for its sharp director Gerald Mayer, and for languid love interest Jarma Lewis. All three demoted to tv gigs or just out of the biz within a couple years. And what an odd choice of vehicle to try and put them over, a nearly abstract storyline that sets Richards’ desert homesteader with a working well against paranoid-psychotic Dan Duryea’s tubercular villain. (Hacking like he’s auditioning for CAMILLE.) Duryea takes over a gang of cutthroats when his more civil boss gets shot during a failed attack on the homestead. Meantime, Richards, helped by a little family who’ve stopped for water, has Duryea & Co. (including a nasty Keenan Wynn) faked into thinking they’re up against a score of well-armed defenders. The death-rate is positively alarming, and two more come to grief post-credits, yet the film still manages a happy ending. A bit more story development might have made something out of this. Mayer showed real promise in his debut (DIAL 1119/’50) and co-scripter Jack Leonard has credits on a couple of ‘B’ classics (NARROW MARGIN/’52; HIS KIND OF WOMAN/51). But only the scenery-chewing Dan Duryea leaves an impression.
DOUBLE-BILL: Jeff Richards returned to the big screen as star of the dunderheaded Grade-Z ‘guilty pleasure’ Sci-Fi pic ISLAND OF LOST WOMEN/’59. Who can forget its immortal last line? ‘Why this metal alloy hasn’t been used since . . . the days of the druids!’