Unusually involving mid-range Western skips the ubiquitous Stranger-Comes-To-Town straitjacket largely by staying out of town. Instead, three prison escapees ambush three men at a campfire, killing them for their horses & a change of clothes. At the same time, a foursome of saloon gals, just kicked out of town, get stuck on the open road when their surrey breaks down. Picked up by a couple of brothers herding horses back to their ranch, it’s a match of convenience at best, and quickly starts to fall apart when two of the girls break off. Dangerous, too, since one of the desperadoes is out for revenge against the elder brother. It sets up some crisscross dramatic goals that play out strongly against the usual romance & confrontations, yet the film never quite hits its potential. Director Mark Robson makes good use of the rocky landscape, but has less success controlling the pace. The film kind of dribbles along. And while John Ireland’s cold-blooded killer & Gloria Grahame’s slightly-used hostess get the job done, pleasant but colorless leading man Robert Sterling gives off little heat. (Where’s Joel McCrea when you need him?*) Somebody could have made more of this one.
DOUBLE-BILL: *Claude Jarman, the nice kid brother here, worked with McCrea next year in THE OUTRIDERS/’50’ (not seen here). But it’s his other 1949 release, INTRUDER IN THE DUST, reuniting him with director Clarence Brown who discovered him for THE YEARLING/’46, that’s really worth hunting up.