Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Wyoming Renegades (1954)

WYOMING RENEGADES is an underdeveloped Western with Phil Carey as a former outlaw trying to go straight.

Carey plays Brady Sutton, who has served three years in prison and returned to his hometown, where he intends to reopen the family blacksmith business. Nancy (Martha Hyer) has been waiting to marry Brady and believes in him, but he faces a hostile reception from most of the townsfolk, except for newcomer Charlie Veer (Douglas Kennedy), who takes a gamble on Brady and invests in his business.

At first things go well, but Brady's old confederates Butch Cassidy (Gene Evans) and the Sundance Kid (William Bishop) have a plan to rob the town bank, and when Brady unsuccessfully tries to thwart it he's accused of having returned to his old ways. Brady has to go on the run to survive an angry mob, accompanied by the loyal Charlie. It looks like Brady will fall in with the old gang again for real...or will he?

I like a short Western, but at 73 minutes this is just a bare bones storyline without a great deal of back story or character development; in fact, the movie spends way too much time on the outlaws, when it would be much more interesting to learn more about Brady, Nancy, and Charlie. The story transitions are somewhat abrupt, moved along by Butch and Sundance having the almost superhuman ability to be in the right place at the right time in order to learn critical info.

Carey is an appealing Western lead, but the movie is almost stolen from him by Douglas Kennedy, a character actor with nearly 200 credits to his name, who so often played a villain in '50s Westerns. Kennedy has a real chance to shine in this film as the friendly, morally ambiguous Charlie, who may not be quite as he seems. It's a really nice role, and Kennedy makes the most of it.

Evans, on the other hand, is quite unpleasant as Butch Cassidy, which may be appropriate for an outlaw but means he's not much fun to watch on screen for extended periods. Bishop is wasted as the Sundance Kid, while future TV mogul Aaron Spelling is creepily memorable as one of the outlaw gang.

Martha Hyer is saddled with a really bad platinum blonde hairstyle -- maybe a wig? -- but she and the other women of the town have a unique role to play in the film's final shootout, a nice touch which gives the film a little something out of the ordinary.

There are a number of welcome faces in the supporting cast, including Roy Roberts, Don Beddoe, Pat O'Malley, Harry Harvey, Robert Foulk, and one of my favorites, Arthur Space.

This film was directed by Fred F. Sears from a story and screenplay by David Lang. It was shot in Technicolor by Lester White.

WYOMING RENEGADES is a Columbia film which is available on DVD-R in the Sony Choice line. It can be rented from ClassicFlix.

This movie also turns up from time to time on the Encore Westerns Channel.


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