Friday, July 25, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Relentless (1948)

RELENTESS (1948) is a Western with strong lead performances and excellent location shooting, but too much time spent on animals in distress interfered with my enjoyment of what is otherwise a solid film.

Nick (Robert Young) is framed for a series of murders by Tex (Barton MacLane, who was also the villain of last night's SAN QUENTIN). Jeff (Willard Parker) is determined to arrest Nick, who escapes and sets out on a long journey to track down Tex and clear his name.

Luella (Marguerite Chapman), a traveling saleswoman, believes in Nick and helps him on several occasions as time goes by and his predicament becomes ever more dire.

Young is very good in this, balancing his character being a kindly man who loves animals with someone who is "relentless" in his dogged pursuit of the man who's framed him. He and Chapman have a very nice rapport; this is probably the most appealing performance I've yet seen by Chapman.

Chapman's character is somewhat unique for a Western in that she has inherited her father's traveling sales business and is thus very independent as Western heroines go, traveling alone in her covered wagon. I would have liked the film better if there was more of Young and Chapman's relationship sans animals.

As I alluded to, animals play a significant role in this film, starting with the opening scenes on a stormy night when Nick's horse, soon to have a foal, is in distress. (Spoiler alert) She later gives birth in a snowstorm and shortly thereafter is cruelly killed. This leads to the foal's life being in jeopardy. He develops a cute relationship with a burro, but then the foal and the burro are separated, the foal is upset and sneaks away without Chapman realizing it, the burro's life is put in jeopardy, and you get the general idea. It was all just a little too much for this animal lover to enjoy. Those who aren't sensitive to that kind of a storyline will doubtless like the movie much better, as generally speaking it's a good film.

The movie's only other significant flaw was too much plot; the villainous characters played by Akim Tamiroff and Mike Mazurki were excess and added unnecessary minutes. This would have played better as, say, an 85-minute film rather than the 93 minutes it actually runs.

The movie looks terrific, with easily over half of the film shot in the great outdoors, mostly in the Tucson area. It was filmed in Technicolor by Edward Cronjager.

RELENTLESS was directed by George Sherman. The supporting cast includes Robert Barrat, Clem Bevans, and Will Wright.

RELENTLESS is shown from time to time on the Encore Westerns Channel.


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