ROBBERS' ROOST has one of those casts guaranteed to make a '50s Western fan smile: George Montgomery, Richard Boone, Peter Graves, Leo Gordon, Warren Stevens, and Bruce Bennett. I really enjoyed this one.
The story, based on a novel by Zane Grey, is about a crippled rancher (Bennett) with a large herd he needs to get to market. He decides to hire two rival gangs of rustlers, headed by Boone and Graves, to move the cattle as he figures the two "teams of rivals" will each fight tooth and nail to prevent the other gang from stealing the cattle, and just maybe amidst the chaos he'll be able to hang on to the herd.
The gangs decide to throw in together to steal the herd and split the proceeds, and then things get really interesting...
The story reminded me a bit of later Randolph Scott Westerns such as RIDE LONESOME (1959), with Montgomery as a man with a painful past and a mission of vengeance. I'd only planned to watch the first half of this last night, but I was having such a good time watching it that I stayed up much later than planned, finishing its 83 minutes all in one sitting!
50 Westerns From the 50s. I've only seen a couple Montgomery Westerns, but I'll definitely be checking out more of them in the future.
To be sure, ROBBERS' ROOST is not a perfect film; there's too much day for night shooting, and Sylvia Findley's performance was awkward, particularly in the early going. (This was Findley's second and final film. If IMDb is to be believed, she was considerably older than Montgomery, but she sure didn't show it; I suspect the date is an error.) However, the imperfections were more than made up for by an engrossing story and a terrific cast of actors who cumulatively made countless Westerns. I found the film very enjoyable, with a satisfying conclusion.
Leonard Maltin and Boyd Magers of Western Clippings disliked the film. I'd encourage anyone interested in the movie to give it a try, as I enjoyed it so much more than they did.
The movie was directed by Sidney Salkow from a screenplay by Salkow, John O'Dea, and Maurice Geraghty. It was filmed in Eastmancolor by Jack Draper. The location work looked different from the typical Western; according to IMDb, it was filmed in Durango, Mexico.
The Zane Grey novel was filmed in 1932 with George O'Brien and Maureen O'Sullivan; given how much I enjoy those leads, I'm quite anxious to get my hands on a copy of that one!
ROBBERS' ROOST is available on DVD-R from MGM. It's a nice widescreen print with just a couple scenes having faint lines marring the picture. It can be rented from ClassicFlix.
This film has also been shown in the past on Encore Westerns Channel, so it's possible it may show up there again one day.
At the time of this writing, the film can be seen in its entirety on YouTube.