Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Ride the Man Down (1952)

RIDE THE MAN DOWN is an enjoyable, if overly complicated, Western from Republic Pictures with a great cast.

I wrote a very similar opening line in my review of Republic's BRIMSTONE (1949) a few months ago, and it held true again on this occasion.

It's hard not to like a movie which starts with a lovely orchestration of "Shenandoah" and lists a starring cast on the opening title card consisting of Rod Cameron, Brian Donlevy, Forrest Tucker, Ella Raines, Chill Wills, and Barbara Britton! Add to that list Jim Davis, J. Carrol Naish, Paul Fix, Jack La Rue, and Douglas Kennedy, and you've got yourself quite a cast indeed.

The movie concerns a range war, with Cameron's ranch foreman eventually finding himself battling many of the other cast members, including Donlevy, Tucker, and Davis, not to mention his sweetheart, played by Britton, and her father (Taylor Holmes).

Raines, meanwhile, plays a feisty young woman who rolls her own cigarettes. She gradually finds herself losing respect for her fiance, Tucker, and taking a fresh look at her childhood friend Cameron, who is trying to hold together the ranch she's inherited.

There's so much plot in this 90-minute movie that it probably would have been better off either streamlining the story with fewer characters or, conversely, adding half an hour to give the storyline greater depth.

Just as with BRIMSTONE, another Western of the same length also directed by Joseph Kane, I'll admit there were moments I really wasn't quite sure exactly what was going on, but I wasn't overly concerned, as I simply enjoyed spending time on the range with Cameron and this great cast.

The Mary McCall Jr. screenplay was based on a story by Luke Short, whose works have inspired such excellent Westerns as RAMROD (1947), BLOOD ON THE MOON (1948), CORONER CREEK (1948), and AMBUSH (1950). IMDb quotes screenwriter McCall as saying "From the outset this was as happy a spell of work as occurs but rarely in a screenwriter's life."

The Trucolor cinematography was by Jack Marta, with the better-than-average musical score by Ned Freeman.

Big thanks to John Knight for making it possible for me to see this one. I certainly wish Olive Films or another company would start releasing some of these interesting Republic Pictures Westerns on DVD.

Rod Cameron Westerns previously reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: PANHANDLE (1948), RIVER LADY (1948), BRIMSTONE (1949), STAMPEDE (1949), SHORT GRASS (1950), WAGONS WEST (1952), and FORT OSAGE (1952).

5 Comments:

Blogger Jerry E said...

I'm grateful to John for making it possible for you to write this fine review, Laura!
As you know by now, this a favourite western for many readers of your, Toby's and Colin's blogs. And I think with good reason. It absolutely ticks all the right boxes to make a classic minor western, made by people who really understood the genre and actors who were clearly comfortable in it.
I agree it is quite complicated in a way, though not overly I feel. I recommend a second viewing where you already know what to expect but the complexity in no longer an issue and can be properly appreciated.
Again, thanks for highlighting this wonderful western.

12:51 AM  
Blogger john knight said...

Hi Laura,

Many thanks for supporting the campaign to get these great Republic A Westerns
more attention. You have,no doubt seen my constant moaning over at Toby's
that no-one seems keen to release these films. (Olive seem to have given up
on releasing titles from the Republic library)
To add insult to injury a company in Germany (Film Jewels) seem to have obtained
the entire Republic library and are putting these films out at a furious pace.
The downside is is the majority of these films have a German only soundtrack.
I guess Film Jewels are getting these films from a German TV channel.
As luck would have it both BRIMSTONE and RIDE THE MAN DOWN seem to have
an English soundtrack.The copy of RIDE THE MAN DOWN that I sent you is possibly
the best "off air" version floating around at the moment and it's far from
perfect. The Film Jewels version should be a vast improvement on this.
I'd certainly get the lot if they had English soundtracks.
In the Republic package are several Allied Artists films not,sadly owned by
Warners. These include LAST OF THE BADMEN the very best of four Westerns
George Montgomery made for Allied Artists. This will be released in 2.35
widescreen but sadly in German only. Other Republic titles with German only
soundtracks include TIMBERJACK (in 1.85 widescreen) THE PLUNDERERS, (Cameron
Tucker) SINGING GUNS,WOMAN OF THE NORTH COUNTRY (impossible to find in decent
quality) and the ultra rare SPOILERS OF THE FOREST. The latter is Rod Cameron's
last Republic Western and will be presented in 2.35 widescreen.
That latter title REALLY hurts as does the two excellent Westerns John Payne
made for Republic ROAD TO DENVER and SANTA FE PASSAGE.
I DO hope Warner Brothers can do some sort of deal with Paramount/Republic
and give these fine films a release where they really belong on the Warner
Archive imprint.
Laura I know that you are starting to mellow somewhat to Mr Tucker...but wasn't he
an utter beast in RIDE THE MAN DOWN.

6:10 AM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

Thanks for reminding me that I have this one (just haven't got around to watching it yet.) I've seen and really enjoyed BRIMSTONE, PANHANDLE, STAMPEDE, and SHORT GRASS.

Interesting that you found BRIMSTONE hard to follow, I can't say I had that difficulty. Now TREASURE OF RUBY HILLS was another matter! (Whoa, wait a minute, who are they talking about now?) It was such a relief when the characters started to kill each other off, fewer names to keep track off (lol).

8:15 AM  
OpenID fiftieswesterns said...

This one's way high on my list of stuff to "ride down."

And now, thanks to you, I wanna see it even more.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

The ol' gang is all here to chat about this one, I love it!

Jerry, you're right about it ticking the right boxes. I had such a smile on my face during the opening credits, for starters! I agree that a second viewing will probably help. I had that experience with RIDE THE PINK HORSE last week and found it made so much more sense the second time around. Sometimes I'm simply tired or distracted the first time, and sometimes I think it just helps to have that second time where you have an idea what to expect.

John, I love to support these Republic Westerns and other films and will be writing about more of them in the future! Even if movies like BRIMSTONE and RIDE THE MAN DOWN aren't top-drawer classics, they're an important part of our Western film heritage and should be accessible to modern viewers.

It's such a shame that so many Westerns are coming out in Europe with German-only tracks.

LAST OF THE BADMEN is a Montgomery I haven't seen yet! I'm hoping to review his BLACK PATCH from the Warner Archive in the near future. (Great list of obscure Westerns coming out from the Archive this week!)

I LOL re Forrest Tucker...he had my goodwill in this one based on CALIFORNIA PASSAGE and FLIGHT NURSE so I was a little more patient with him in this one. But what a bad guy, when if he'd behaved he coulda had Ella Raines and her ranch...

Maricatrin, I liked all the Westerns you mentioned, with PANHANDLE being my top favorite.
Just went back to see what I'd said about TREASURE OF RUBY HILLS, which hasn't stuck in my mind well, and found I described it as "muddled and hard to follow." LOL. So we're in agreement there! I think maybe I just need a fresh look at both BRIMSTONE and RIDE THE MAN DOWN -- liked them both but they were so stuffed with plot my head reeled.

Toby, you gotta see this one! :)

Best wishes,
Laura

6:20 PM  

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