BORDER RIVER is such a title, starring two particular favorites, Joel McCrea and Yvonne DeCarlo. It was recently shown on Encore as part of a day-long tribute to DeCarlo.
BORDER RIVER isn't one of the world's most memorable Westerns, but like McCrea and DeCarlo's earlier film together, THE SAN FRANCISCO STORY (1952), it's a pleasant piece of entertainment.
McCrea plays Major Clete Mattson, a Confederate soldier who arrives in Mexico planning to trade gold bars for army supplies. Mattson bargains with General Calleja (Pedro Armendariz), who rules the area called Zona Libre. Mattson also has his eye on beautiful Carmelita (DeCarlo), although the general considers her off limits to another man.
Meanwhile Mattson's every move is being shadowed by Newlund (Howard Petrie), a detective employed by the Union Army.
The film has espionage, romance, chases, and gun battles, all shot in beautiful Technicolor on location in Mexico, Utah, and along the scenic Colorado River. McCrea is smart and stalwart, DeCarlo is gorgeous, and together they're an attractive team. All in all, it's a fairly likeable little Western. The story moves at a brisk pace, wrapping up within 80 minutes.
One of the things I found interesting is that the film was so comfortable with its hero being an unrepentant Confederate soldier, straight through till the end of the story. McCrea's character isn't given much of a back story or motivation, other than he's a loyal Reb, but since McCrea has the goodwill of the audience, it works. DeCarlo's character is somewhat more fleshed out in terms of her background.
The music heard during the opening credits is quite stirring. It turns out that Henry Mancini is among those who did uncredited work on the score, although I don't know who's responsible for the opening credits. The rest of the film's music is fairly run of the mill.
The movie was directed by George Sherman and photographed by Irving Glassberg. DeCarlo's colorful gowns are by Rosemary Odell. The script is by William Sackheim and Louis Stevens, from a story by Stevens.
BORDER RIVER has been released in the U.S. on VHS. The only DVD release is a Region 2 disc from Spain.
2012 Update: BORDER RIVER is now available in the United States on Region 1 DVD as part of the Joel McCrea Westerns Collection from the TCM Vault Collection.
2014 Update: Adding a note that the TCM Vault print is absolutely gorgeous -- those who love Joel McCrea and Yvonne DeCarlo will definitely want to see it that way!