Budd Boetticher. Of the half dozen films seen to date, all have been interesting, and two of the movies, SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (1956) and RIDE LONESOME (1959), I rank among my very favorite Westerns. I also particularly liked COMANCHE STATION (1960).
Tonight it was time to catch up with the only film by this partnership I'd not yet seen, BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE. And in all honesty, I have to say this one was pretty lame. (Sorry, Randy!) I'd rank it not only at the bottom of the seven Scott-Boetticher films, but below a number of films Scott made with other directors.
Scott's title character rides into Agrytown, California, just across the border from Mexico. The town is run by several members of the venial Agry family, and before Buchanan knows what's happened he's been robbed and framed for murder, with a hanging imminent. The rest of the movie depicts how Buchanan gets out of the fixes he repeatedly gets into.
The movie has a number of problems, chief among them being that virtually all of the supporting characters are incredibly boring, even downright unpleasant. Craig Stevens' ambiguous character, a sort of "fixer" for the Agrys, has potential, but it's never really fulfilled until the final scene, and Buchanan's fellow Texan, Pecos (L.Q. Jones), has a couple of good moments, but his character is snuffed out too soon. Juan de la Vega (Manuel Rojas) never really explains his actions so again the audience is left with a poorly motivated character for whom we're nonetheless supposed to feel some sympathy. Otherwise, the characters are all a motley lot of losers.
The other "Ranown" films were generally distinguished by interesting villains who were at times surprisingly charming; no one will ever forget Lee Marvin in SEVEN MEN FROM NOW, Richard Boone in THE TALL T, or Pernell Roberts' wonderful antihero in RIDE LONESOME. However, one more look at Peter Whitney's Amos would have sent me off the deep end. What a repulsive fellow. Tol Avery and Barry Kelley's larcenous characters fare little better. They have no motivations, nothing whatsoever to distinguish them as unique; they're incredibly uninteresting characters with far too much screen time.
Another issue is that Scott's Buchanan, while a genial fellow, lacks smarts, which is not what one expects from a Randolph Scott hero. There's just no excuse for leaving a bunch of bad guys loosely tied up with their horses at the ready, and Buchanan and his allies pay the price. Why didn't they at least drive the horses off? Buchanan just seems to go in circles -- he's free, he's caught, he's free, he's caught, he's free, he's caught... Yawn.
The Old Tucson setting is fairly colorless, which is somewhat ironic as just yesterday I wrote about one of my favorite TV Westerns, which makes excellent use of the same environment. Moreover, there's a shot of Craig Stevens talking to someone in the saloon doorway with the most amazingly phony painted backdrop in the background, which seems to be of some tall brick buildings -- certainly not a match for the dusty main street of Agrytown!
Posters prominently feature the name of actress Jennifer Holden, but she only had a bit part. The picture suffers from the lack of a significant female role, especially as most of the male characters are such duds.
One of Boetticher's favorite screenwriters, Charles Lang, wrote the screenplay; another Boetticher favorite, Burt Kennedy, is said to have worked on polishing it, but there just wasn't much to be done with this repetitive mess, which runs for 78 long minutes. The film is based on a Jonas Ward novel, THE NAME'S BUCHANAN.
Given how much I admire him, I feel somewhat disloyal criticizing a Randolph Scott film this strongly, but I really don't know what they were thinking on this one!
BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE is part of the otherwise excellent DVD set The Films of Budd Boetticher.
Additional reviews of Scott-Boetticher films: THE TALL T (1957), DECISION AT SUNDOWN (1957), and WESTBOUND (1959).