6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Jack Elam Steals the Show.,
This review is from: Rawhide [DVD] (DVD)
I remember watching "Rawhide" many years ago on the old black and white TV, in my impressionable long lost youth. The film made a big impact on me at the time and I remembered it especially for Jack Elam's leering performance. So it was good to see that Optimum have re-released it. Would it stand up to examination under more world weary, and slightly more cynical eyes? Only one way to find out, so I watched it again, and found much to enjoy.
Filmed in a glorious black and white to a rousing old style Hollywood score, it was a glorious throw back to the heyday of westerns. The "Rawhide" of the title is a staging post for the overland express, run by Tyrone Power and a grizzled Edgar Buchanan. Queue four deperados who intend to rob the bullion stage. Will Power, helped by the beautiful Susan Hayward who was unfortunately stranded at the post by the last stage, be able to prevent this from happening. The tension increases as the stage gets closer and time slips away.
The film is as much a thriller as a western. The heavy in chief played by Hugh Marlowe, reminded me more of a Humphrey Bogart villain than a traditional western bad guy. In fact although Bogart was not a natural in western guise, something he tried unsuccesfully in the past, he might just have made the grade in this one. Jack Elam hams it up to good effect, with his unforgettable performance that cemented his name in the western baddie hall of fame for all time. Good support was also given by the ever reliable Dean Jagger, as one of the gang. It was also nice to see mules being correctly used for pulling the overland express. Many films used horses because they looked better, although mules were most commonly used in the old west. The film bears great similarities to Budd Boetticher's "The Tall T", which also got some historical street cred for using mules. In that film Randolph Scott is also terrorised by a bloodthirsty gang lead by Richard Boone. In fact the locations used for that film seemed remarkably similar to those in "Rawhide". Using wit and intelligence, Boetticher was able to lift this B western into the realms of high cinematic art. Henry Hathaway was a more limited director, best known for his films with John Wayne. He directed the entertaining "True Grit", where Wayne managed to bag his oscar. Although "Rawhide" does not quite reach Boetticher levels, it is a very accomplished western, and a worthy addition to the western fans collection.