Saturday, October 18, 2008

FILM REVIEW OF "COLT .45" (1950)

"Tall in the Saddle" director Edwin L. Marin's predictable law and order oater "Colt .45" with Randolph Scott and Ruth Roman is just the kind of western that the National Rifle Association would applaud. Consider the film's foreword: 'A gun, like any other source of power, is a force for either good or evil, being neither in itself, but dependent upon those who possess it.' In other words, guns don't kill people, rather people abuse guns and kill people. "Colt .45" epitomizes this theme. "Cattle Queen of Montana" scenarist Thomas W. Blackburn has created a storyline that encapsulates the foreword. Basically, the villain steals the hero's six-shooters, and the hero must recover them because the villain's use of the revolutionary six-gun is besmirching the company.

"Colt .45" opens with former U.S. Army Captain Steve Farrell demonstrating a pair of six-shooters to Sheriff of Bonanza Creek. Farrell touts the revolvers as 'the finest guns ever made.' Farrell swears by them himself and he has used them. While Farrell is telling the sheriff about the advantages of Colt .45s, Jason Brett (Zachary Scott of "Mildred Pierce") complains that he doesn't want to have to hear Farrell's pitch. The sheriff tries to hush Brett up. The lawn has already arranged for the departing stagecoach departing to transport the unruly Brett out of the county. Farrell walks away momentarily from the pair of display pistols in a case on the sheriff's desk when Brett scuffles with the lawman, seizes the six-guns, and blasts away at everybody. The town citizens pour into the sheriff's office in time to see Brett on his way to the back door. Before Brett skedaddles, he incriminates Farrell as his partner. The outraged citizens grab our hero and lock him up. Later, the circuit judge advises the sheriff that he must release Farrell because he has no reason to hold him.

Farrell is anxious to hit the trail and nab Brett. Between the time that Brett escaped and Farrell's release, the gun thief has held up a stagecoach, lone rider on the trail, and settlers camping out. Brett assembles a gang of gunslingers to ride with him and settles down in Bonanza Creek to prey on the stagecoaches carrying gold shipments. At one point, Brett and his gunmen kill several Indians and then masquerade as redskins to waylay the stagecoach. Farrell finds one of the Indians, Walking Bear (Chief Thundercloud of "Badman's Territory"), while he is still alive and sends him packing on his horse. Next, Farrell catches a ride on the stage. Brett's Indian imposters strike the stage and Farrell climbs down inside the coach to return fire. He finds Beth Donovan (Ruth Roman of "Strangers on a Train") and she protests at what he is doing. They argue, but Farrell manages to gun down six of the outlaws. Brett pulls his gang off the coach. When Farrell helps the surviving driver, he discovers a scarf attached to the stage and accuses Beth of warning the outlaws about the gold shipments. When the stage arrives in Bonanza Creek, Farrell convinces Sheriff Harris (Alan Hale of "Desperate Journey") to make him his deputy so that he can get to the bottom of the lawlessness that the Colt .45 gang has created.

As it turns out, Sheriff Harris is corrupt and he is Brett's accomplice. Beth is passing along information about the gold shipments because he believes that Brett will kill her husband Paul (Lloyd Bridges of "High Noon") if she doesn't continue to help him. Farrell and the Indians capture two of Brett's men. The following day the outlaws are put on trial out in the street with a judge presiding. Brett's hides his Colt .45s and rides into town with his gang. Brett implicates Farrell because Farrell has the only pair of Colt .45s in the county. Naturally, Sheriff Harris goes along with Brett who is posing like an upstanding citizen. Walking Bear rescues Farrell from a lynch mob. Meanwhile, Paul and Beth had fallen out with each other after she learns that he was a member of the Brett gang all the time. Beth hates Brett and she rides to town about the same time that the judge is holding court out in the street and tries to warn Sheriff Harris. Beth's husband has no qualms about gunning her down. Walking Bear and Farrell hightail it out of Bonanza Creek and Farrell scoops up Beth and takes her along. Later, Sheriff Harris and a posse show up at Walking Bear's village, but the chief refuses to turn Farrell and the wounded Beth over to him.

"Colt .45" qualifies as a B-movie western that clocks in at a trim 74-minutes, and Marin doesn't squander time. Interestingly enough, when our hero Farrell settles down to the business of rounding up the Brett gang, he changes into a totally black outfit. Scenarist Thomas W. Blackburn keeps Farrell scrambling from the moment that Brett pinches his pair of Colt .45s and playing catch-up until the last six minutes of the action. Zachary Scott makes a convincing ruthless killer. During his final fisticuffs with Farrell, Brett digs his fingers into the knife wound that our hero received from the hands of Brett's henchmen. Apparently, since Beth was deluded into thinking that her husband's safety was in jeopardy, she is allowed to switch sides and she is punished for her collaboration with the villains. Fans of actor Randolph Scott will enjoy this straightforward, no-nonsense western, but it suffers when compared to the later westerns that Scott made for director Bud Boetticher and director Andre de Toth.

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