I'd never seen a Wild Bill Elliott Western, so I thought this set would be a good intro leading in to watching an even bigger eight-film set just out from the Archive, the Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection. I'll be reviewing the films in that set at a future date.
In FARGO Elliott plays Bill Martin, who returns home when his brother is killed. Bill's brother was caught in a range war between cattlemen and farmers, and Bill is soon caught up in the midst of the battles himself when he assists farmers putting up barbed wire to keep their crops from being trampled by cattle.
In the new Warner Archive podcast, the hosts discuss Elliott being a darker kind of Western hero, often angry, which allowed his films to be a little different in tone than the average Western. Commenter Maricatrin said something along similar lines in a comment following my review of CODE OF THE WEST (1947), saying she finds Elliott "Tight-lipped, grimly humorous, and with a deadlier edge than some other B-western leads."
That was definitely the case in this film, as Bill spurns the attempts of Kathy (Phyllis Coates) when she appeals to him not to do something dangerous because he might feel something for her. Bill coldly says something along the lines that emotions just get in the way of what needs to be done.
The film was considerably more violent than most of the "B" Westerns I watch, with a character being delivered to a dance wrapped head to toe in barbed wire -- a rather horrific moment! -- and villain Red Olsen (Myron Healey) shooting someone for not much reason at almost point blank range.
On the lighter side, there are a couple really nice scenes with the bartender (Richard Reeves) who seems to make it a habit of covering Bill's back.
All in all it's a compelling tale, with a great cast including Arthur Space as a crooked lawyer, Robert J. Wilke as (what else?) a villain, Fuzzy Knight as Bill's friend, and Jack Ingram as Kathy's father, plus Denver Pyle, Tim Ryan, Stanley Andrews, and Florence Lake. Familiar Western names like Marshall Reed, House Peters Jr., and I. Stanford Jolley are further down in the cast.
FARGO is a Silvermine Production for Monogram Pictures. It was directed by Lewis D. Collins and filmed by Ernest Miller. Exteriors were shot at Iverson Ranch in Southern California.
FARGO is a good-looking print which shares a disc with THE HOMESTEADERS (1953), which I'll be reviewing in the near future. There are no extras. (Update: Here is my review of THE HOMESTEADERS.)
I noted after the fact that Western historian Boyd Magers rates FARGO very highly at his site Western Clippings. For more on the Warner Archive DVD, check out Toby's review at 50 Westerns From the 50s. I was interested to learn the movie was originally released in sepia; I think that look would go well with the overall tone of the movie.
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD set. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.