Backlash (1956)



Dir: John Sturges - Cast: Richard Widmark, Donna Reed, William Campbell, John McIntire, Barton MacLane, Harry Morgan, Robert J. Wilke, Edward Platt, Robert Foulk

Interesting, suspenseful western written by Bordon Chase, who also wrote several scripts for Anthony Mann. The script combines elements from the western and the detective story, with Richard Widmark as the determined, even obsessed gunslinger looking for the man who 'sold' five others to the Indians so he could lay his hands on a fortune of gold. He teams up with a young widow (Donna Reed) who has her own reasons for investigating the case.
Understandably the film often feels like a Mann western, but Sturges' directional style is less rigorous than Mann's. Widmark is excellent, but it's hard not to think of Jimmy Stewart while watching the movie. Some scenes (especially those in the saloon) also have some spaghetti western feel, almost a decade before the genre came into being. One character, significantly called Johnny Cool, a young, probably homosexual, gunslinger dressed in black leather, may work better today than it did back then.
Set in post-Civil war Arizona, with most of the location work done in the state, this brooding, atmospheric noir western is often a visual delight. The finale, Widmark finding the man he was looking for, is a bit overwrought in its Freudian twists and turns - it's what Orson Welles once called "dollar-book Freud" - but that’s what everybody was occupied with in those days.


 
 
 

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