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Sunday, August 6, 2017

SHOOT-OUT AT MEDICINE BEND (1957)

With Randolph Scott in the middle of his 7-pic run of Budd Boetticher chamber Westerns* and James Garner gaining a following from tv’s MAVERICK, Warner Bros. finally released this little b&w Oater after a couple of years on the shelf. (Was it Garner’s first gig?) It’s an odd duck, if not in a bad way (shot on the cheap by Richard Dare who worked theatrical ‘shorts’ before he moved into series tv), with a largely comic tone except for serious bookends. Fresh out of the army, and still in uniform, Scott, Garner & comic relief guy Gordon Jones show up too late to stop an Indian raid on a farm community where the real culprit aren’t the ‘savages,’ but the dud ammo bought from a cartel of cons who’ve taken over just about everything in the town of Medicine Bend: sheriff, mayor, saloon & shops on Main Street. Seeking redress, our boys are robbed blind on their way into town, and the buck naked trio are lucky to get new clothes from a religious sect heading West. Once in Medicine Bend, the threesome nose around using ‘thee’ & ‘thou’ as a pious disguise to scope out the situation before taking action. Sounds plenty hokey, but it plays pretty well if you don’t mind the near complete lack of outdoor action. (Except for the bookends, this might just be the most indoor Western you’ll see next to Quentin Tarantino’s HATEFUL EIGHT.) Bonus points for a young Angie Dickinson, waiting behind a shop counter to pair up with Scott even if she obviously belongs with Garner, already showing his considerable charm.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: A final fight between Scott and baddie James Craig is nicely staged in a darkened department store/ warehouse and ends when someone gets ‘sickled’ to death. Yikes!

DOUBLE-BILL: *It’s always a good time to plug the Boetticher/Scott Westerns (most written by Burt Kennedy) which starts with SEVEN MEN FROM NOW/’56 and continues thru COMANCHE STATION/’60. And worth noting that the non-Kennedy BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE/’58 isn’t too far off MEDICINE in plot or tone.

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