BLOOD ON THE MOON is a briskly paced Western directed by the versatile Robert Wise. Robert Mitchum plays a "loose rider" who seemingly wanders into the middle of a range war pitting Robert Preston against Barbara Bel Geddes and family. Which side will Mitchum and his fast gun support?
Some writers refer to this movie as a "Western film noir." It has great moody black and white atmosphere, beginning with the opening scene of Mitchum preparing to bunk down for the night after riding through a rainstorm. A shadowy barroom brawl between Mitchum and Preston is classic. The movie was partially shot in Sedona, Arizona, and includes striking shots of mountains against cloud-filled skies.
Robert Mitchum is, well, Robert Mitchum, terrific as the laconic, initially morally ambiguous gunman. Barbara Bel Geddes is an atypical Western heroine who is very handy with a rifle herself. This was one of Bel Geddes's first films; she also appeared that year as Katrin in the wonderful I REMEMBER MAMA.
Walter Brennan is superb in a supporting role and has the best line in the movie: "I always wanted to shoot one of you, and he was the handiest."
The film echoes some of the themes of one of my favorite Westerns, ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (1947): the gunslinger helped along the road to redemption by the love of a good woman; the older man with a rifle who could prove to be either friend or enemy to the hero. They're quite different movies, but it's interesting to mull over some of the story elements the two films have in common.
This 88-minute film is a small gem which deserves wider viewing and recognition.
BLOOD ON THE MOON is available on VHS.
This movie is also part of the Turner Classic Movies library. TCM has a nice writeup on the movie here, and the trailer is available here.
Update: I had a wonderful opportunity to see this film on a big screen at UCLA in July 2011.