These five movies, directed by Budd Boetticher and starring Randolph Scott, are fine examples of professional craftsmanship. There's plenty of action, some nasty angles and a great lead actor. So what if they were low-budget. They satisfy.
The Tall T:
Brennan (Randolph Scott) and Mrs. Mims (Maureen O'Sullivan) have every right to be scared. They're held captive in the hot, rocky countryside 15 miles outside of Contention. There's Billy Jack, a young kid with a gun who doesn't much like being a virgin. There's Chink, a dead-eyed killer who shot down his father when he was 12. Most of all, there's Frank Usher (Richard Boone), older and wiser than the two he runs with, and more ruthless than them both. He's the kind of man who laughs when a woman burns her hands on a hot coffee pot he could have warned her of. Brennan knows Frank Usher will have Chink and Billy Jack gun them down as soon as Usher has the ransom he demands for Mrs. Mims. Brennan and Mrs. Mims must wait and take their chances. In the meantime, we get to see some of what makes Frank Usher tick and of the kind of man Pat Brennan is.
Decision at Sundown:
This is a drama without, for 50 minutes of the 77-minute running time, any gripping motivation for Bart Allison's (Randolph Scott) hatred. We know something, probably nasty, happened to a woman named Mary and that the slick Tate Kimbrough (John Carroll) had something to do with it. But what? Allison's sick obsession with killing Kimbrough ("For three years I've hunted Kimbrough, but he didn't know it. Before I settle with him I want him to know he's being hunted."), even on Kimbrough's wedding day when Allison arrives at Sundown, seems more like a plot device than a major justification for violence. The movie's not all that bad, but not very good. I'll say this: The conclusion, bitter and drunken, almost makes up for the rest.
Buchanan Rides Alone:
Surprising and surprisingly good. Randolph Scott is not the lone man on horseback who rides into town with a righteous grudge. He's just Tom Buchanan (Randolph Scott), riding up from Mexico where he earned a stake big enough to buy the spread in West Texas he's always wanted. When he crosses the border and enters Agry Town, the county seat of Agry County, California, things are going to turn bad fast. Judge Simon Agry runs the town with a soft, greasy hand. He's pudgy, ambitious, hypocritical, cautious and double dealing. Sheriff Lew Agry is a tough man with a beefy face, a solid gut and a rancid disposition. By the end of the movie, the Agry brothers and their town get what they deserve. And Tom Buchanan heads to west Texas, his gold stake back in his gun belt and a nice, satisfied smile on his face.
This movie is a fine example of skilled craftsmanship matched with economy of purpose...including the economy of writing, directing, editing and acting. In fact, the only non-economical things about this movie are the over-blown music score and Karen Steele's bosom. It takes only seven minutes to know what we need to know about Ben Brigade (Randolph Scott), the kind of man he is, what he's planning to do with the young murderer he captured, Billy John, and to be impressed as all get out with the hot, dry, boulder-strewn setting. But then the story starts to change. Something else is going on in Ben Brigade's head besides bounty hunting and bringing in Billy John to be hanged in Santa Cruz. And it ain't nice. It's all going to come together at the hangin' tree. Might not be pretty, but it's going to be tense and surprising.
A tall man on a horse. A face as leathery as his saddle. A determination to do what needs doing. And fast with a gun when he needs to be. It must be Randolph Scott. Comanche Station is the last movie Scott made with Boetticher. It has a taut, crisp screenplay by their frequent collaborator, Burt Kennedy. If Comanche Station -- well made, small scale but looking big, with plenty of tension between Scott and the bad guy -- isn't quite in the same league as The Tall T and Ride Lonesome, it'll do.
"A lot of money has a way of making a man all greed inside," says smiling gunman Ben Lane (Claude Akins).
"Such as?" says Jefferson Cody (Randolph Scott).
Lane gives a smile. "It can get him to thinking of doing things he might not otherwise do," he says. "You know, it's a long way to Lawrenceburg. It wouldn't surprise me if somebody didn't try to take that woman away from you."
"Like you, for instance?"
"Like me, in particular," says Lane.
The woman is Mrs. Nancy Lowe (Nancy Gates), captured by Comanches. Lane is all too happy to tell Mrs. Lowe that her husband, who didn't go out searching for her himself, has posted a $5,000 reward for her. He doesn't mention that includes her alive or just the body. Seems the husband wants closure. As with all the Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott movies, the bad guys pay a price. But that's not the end of the story. You may be surprised. I didn't see it coming.
The DVD transfers are fine.