Today we watched a "1958" double bill, following THE TUNNEL OF LOVE with SADDLE THE WIND, an engrossing "psychological" Western written by Rod Serling. It was directed by Robert Parrish and an uncredited John Sturges, who specialized in action films such as ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. I'm curious to know how much of the film Sturges worked on, and why, but thus far my research hasn't turned up any more on that subject.
SADDLE THE WIND stars Robert Taylor as an ex-gunslinger who now makes an honest living as a rancher, mentored by an older, peace-loving rancher (Donald Crisp) who has served as something of a father figure to Taylor.
As the film begins, Taylor's unstable kid brother (John Cassavetes) brings home a pretty fiancee (Julie London), a saloon singer who thinks the kid brother might be her ticket to a better life. Unfortunately, the kid brother has an itchy trigger finger and exhibits increasingly erratic behavior; he soon is embroiled in gunfights and starting a range war, leading to an inevitable confrontation between the two brothers.
The film is a bit grim, but it is very well-crafted and has a satisfying conclusion. Much of the movie was filmed on location, and the spectacular Colorado mountain landscapes are a real plus. (The occasional insertion of obviously "processed" shots into the location scenes is noticeable, though not enough to detract from the film.) Robert Taylor tends to play the same sort of stoic character in many of his '50s films, but I find him appealing and to date have always enjoyed his films.
Among the supporting cast I particularly enjoyed Donald Crisp and Ray Teal, who plays Crisp's foreman. Also in the cast are Charles McGraw and Royal Dano.
Some good Disney trivia: Royal Dano was the voice of Abraham Lincoln Disneyland's Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln.
SADDLE THE WIND runs 84 minutes. The haunting title song, sung by Julie London, was written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston, composers of hits such as "Mona Lisa," "Que Sera, Sera," and "Silver Bells." Elmer Bernstein composed the background music. The color CinemaScope photography was by George Folsey, who was also the cinematographer of GRAND CENTRAL MURDER, reviewed here last week.
SADDLE THE WIND is not available on VHS or DVD. Vote here for it to be released on DVD. The scenery in this film would really be done justice by a widescreen DVD.
This movie can be seen as part of the film library on Turner Classic Movies.
Fall 2008 Update: SADDLE THE WIND is now available on DVD.