DVD from Olive Films.
I had little memory of the film from that long-ago viewing, and the Civil War era plot, alas, proved to be a bit dreary. The film concerns three longtime pals who co-own a ranch; after being burned out, Kip and Charlie (McCrea and Zachary Scott) end up gun-running for the South while Lee (Douglas Kennedy) signs on with the Confederate Army.
Two lovely ladies, saloon gal "Rouge" (Alexis Smith) and army nurse Deb (Dorothy Malone) pine over Kip; after being ignored for too long, Deb later transfers her affections to Lee. That and Charlie's obsession with making money -- nearly sacrificing Kip's life -- cause Kip to retreat across the border in disgust, where he's on the road to alcoholism. Then one day after the war has ended, Kip gets word that newly minted Texas Ranger Lee is on the verge of a dangerous confrontation with Charlie.
The film isn't boring; it's just not very interesting, either. McCrea's Kip is a bit dense, making a series of poor decisions; Scott as the cynical, wryly sarcastic Charlie is more fun to watch, but his character gradually descends into villainy, aided by the creepy, knife-wielding Slim (Bob Steele). Only Lee has a real sense of nobility, if one can forgive him being a Confederate soldier; that problem is erased by making him a Ranger at movie's end.
What does distinguish SOUTH OF ST. LOUIS is its absolutely stunning Technicolor, filmed by Karl Freund. The Olive Films DVD looks quite spectacular; Joel McCrea's eyes were never so blue! In fact, it's hard to imagine the Blu-ray looking any better than the impressive DVD picture. It looks so good that it's worth watching the movie for that reason alone.
The film has some wonderful visual imagery centered around the bells that the three friends wear on their spurs; the scenes with close-ups of the spurs provide the movie's best moments, whether it's the opening barroom confrontation with Cottrell (Victor Jory) or the final shootout. The "three bells" theme is so effective, one wishes it were part of a stronger movie.
Still, any time spent with this cast is worthwhile. They may have all made better films, but having this group of actors all together on screen in the same film is special.
SOUTH OF ST. LOUIS was directed by Ray Enright. It has a solid score by Max Steiner. It runs 88 minutes.
For another take on this film, please visit Jacqueline's engaging post at Another Old Movie Blog.