Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Quantrill's Raiders (1958)

NOTE: This post on QUANTRILL'S RAIDERS (1958) is one of my contributions to the Allied Artists Blogathon being hosted by Toby at 50 Westerns From the 50s. The blogathon will be held January 29-31, 2016. I'll also be writing on the film noir LOOPHOLE (1954). Be sure to visit Toby's site for lots of interesting links to posts about Allied Artists movies!

QUANTRILL'S RAIDERS (1958) is an Allied Artists CinemaScope Western starring Steve Cochran, Diane Brewster, Leo Gordon, and Gale Robbins.

Gordon plays the legendary Civil War "raider" Quantrill as an edgy man with a hair-trigger temper, to put it mildly. Cochran is an undercover Confederate officer whose orders are to find Quantrill and get Quantrill and his men to get rid of a Union armory in Lawrence, Kansas.

The Union Army moves the arsenal out of Lawrence but Quantrill ignores orders and plans to attack the town anyway. This leaves Cochran's military man with quite a quandary: Allow Quantrill to do his evil deeds, burning houses and probably killing women and children, or blow his own cover and warn the people of Lawrence, despite the fact it's a Union town. The fact that he's smitten with Sue (Brewster), his boarding house landlady, adds to his dilemma.

QUANTRILL'S RAIDERS has a strong cast but weak material. I enjoy all four leads very much, but the 68-minute script by Polly James was fairly lackluster.

I liked the sweet romance of Cochran and Brewster, Gordon's portrayal of Quantrill as a man about one second away from spontaneous combustion, and Robbins' lively appearances as Quantrill's girl, but these were all very brief moments in a fairly dry action film. There's a lot of riding around on horseback, but not enough story and character development.

The movie had the benefit of widescreen color photography, with much of it shot outdoors by William P. Whitley, but it's strictly a "backlot and movie ranch" look, fairly dull. (Incidentally, I know I've seen the exterior of Diane Brewster's house in other movies, though I can't think of them offhand!)

The part's not much but I have a soft spot for Steve Cochran, especially when he's playing a hero or an ambiguous character such as in this film, rather than a flat-out villain.

Gordon and Brewster had appeared together as a married couple the previous year in BLACK PATCH (1957), but here their characters don't interact. Gordon's role is showy, while Brewster is simply a sweet leading lady in this one.

Robbins' scenes bring the film needed spark, but her role is all too brief. This same year Robbins would also do a fine job in the Western GUNSMOKE IN TUCSON (1958).

QUANTRILL'S RAIDERS was directed by Edward Bernds.

This film is available on DVD from the Warner Archive.


Blogger Jerry E said...

Great choice to review, Laura! Not a classic film, to be sure, though I may have enjoyed it more than you did. Leo Gordon's 'over-the-top' sadist performance was a standout, making Cochran look a little tame by comparison but I felt Cochran was having a ball with all the action scenes, of which there are many. Plot and characterisation are not especially deep, it's true - but sometimes that kind of straightforward can just work for me.
I will be eager to see what others make of it too.

11:56 PM  
OpenID livius1 said...

I like Cochran too and this movie sounds like it had the potential to be a lot more interesting than it turned out to be. It's a pity then that it appears to be a bit of a one-dimensional experience.


2:00 AM  
Blogger john knight said...

I'm pretty much with you on this one Laura,
I like Cochran very much but this is certainly a lesser film for him.
Steve had a VERY colorful private life which in many ways overshadowed his film
I am very much looking forward to your review of LOOPHOLE which is a far better
film from Allied Artists.

6:31 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Jerry! Cochran did seem to enjoy himself...I like the straightforward, simple Westerns myself but this one was just a little too thin for me.

Colin, it really did have the potential to be more, with a group of solid players...a fleshed-out script would have done a lot. "One-dimensional" is a good description for how I found it.

John, interested to hear your take! Looking forward to LOOPHOLE, hopefully this evening!

Best wishes,

2:10 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I understand that soft spot for Cochran, but agree about the film leading us to expect and want more than it delivered.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Caftan Woman, I was very interested to get your take -- we so often agree on movies. This movie had such potential to have been more --

Best wishes,

9:44 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

I saw just it a year or so ago, and I don't remember it too well now but know I agree pretty much with you and others said about it. I looked it up on my 1957 list of Westerns and find it not too far from the bottom of the list there.

Coming back to me reading your piece at least a little, I remember I enjoyed it well enough. It may be a movie for those like me who are likely to be at least moderately satisfied by almost any 1958 Western, even if it's nothing special. But this isn't one I'd choose to show someone why the genre was so great. I did like seeing Cochran as the hero--he didn't get that a lot so could certainly do it as well as his more characteristic roles. And Diane Brewster was a favorite for Roy Huggins created things on TV--wonderful as Samantha Crawford in MAVERICK and also had the key role (in flashbacks) of the protagonist's murdered wife in the superb THE FUGITIVE.

Lots of Westerns about Quantrill and the Lawrence raid and many or most of them are better than this one.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Blake, thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and leave comments on the Allied Artists blogathon (and other!) posts! Always enjoy hearing your take. Sounds like we're in agreement on this one.

Diane Brewster will always be special to me because of her role as Samantha Crawford! MAVERICK reran on Ch. 9 when I was a teenager and that show meant a great deal to me. :)

Best wishes,

7:40 PM  

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