Randolph Scott tied for the actor whose work I saw most in 2015, yet there are still a significant number of Scott Westerns I've not seen.
One such Scott film was RIDING SHOTGUN (1954), which Colin wrote about last week at Riding the High Country. I was intrigued by his review and the ensuing discussion, particularly as the movie costars Wayne Morris, seen by me in several films in February and March.
As it turned out, I enjoyed RIDING SHOTGUN a lot -- in fact, I think more than Colin; my thoughts fell more in line with those of Blake Lucas, who commented following Colin's review. I thought it was a very well-done film, and I'd go so far as to say I enjoyed it more than the Scott-Boetticher film DECISION AT SUNDOWN (1957), in which Scott played another man bent on revenge.
Larry is tricked into leaving his job on a stagecoach, and when it's robbed and the passengers are killed or injured, local townspeople jump to the conclusion that Larry is part of the gang.
Larry spends much of the film holed up in a ramshackle cantina, simultaneously fending off citizens intent on lynching him and trying to figure out how he'll handle Marady and his gang (including Charles Buchinsky, aka Charles Bronson) when they show up to raid the town.
THEM!), the doctor (James Bell), and possibly Deputy Tub Murphy (Morris). Tub initially seems a bit cowardly and preoccupied by food, but it just might be that Tub is smarter than everyone thinks.
The movie is only 73 minutes long and could have stood a few more minutes to more fully flesh out some characters and relationships, such as Larry's barely hinted-at romance with Orissa, but there's quite a bit of "good stuff" in this film, starting with Scott as an angst-ridden hero. Scott's Larry foreshadows the even darker shadings he would display to such effect a few years later in the aforementioned DECISION AT SUNDOWN.
At the same time, I loved the way Larry prevented Marady and his gang from racing out of town on horseback, which added a note of humor to his grim situation.
Morris is fun as Tub; with a pillow stuffed under his shirt to appear more portly, he's obsessed with food, even taking time out for pie during a gunfight. However, it seemed to me that Tub also used his known penchant for food as a clever delaying tactic; he was one man against a mob, and as he kept taking time out from the townspeople's demands, he bought Larry more time until help would arrive in the form of the sheriff.
Morris's Tub also had a great moment when a cowpoke was trying to rile the townspeople into storming the cantina to go after Larry, and Tub walks up to the man and hands him a gun, in essence saying "I dare you, idiot!"
Incidentally, there's a blooper in Leonard Maltin's CLASSIC FILM GUIDE saying that Morris is a "striking presence" as a man intent on lynching Scott. According to IMDb, that character was played by Vic Perrin.
The supporting cast included Joe Sawyer, who funnily enough I saw this week as a similarly slimy type in a film made 18 years earlier, SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR (1936). Frank Ferguson turns up for one scene as a townsman. Also in the film are Fritz Feld, John Baer, and Paul Picerni.
RIDING SHOTGUN was directed by Andre De Toth (RAMROD) and shot in WarnerColor by Bert Glennon. There are some clever shots of Scott and Morris making good use of the cantina mirror.
RIDING SHOTGUN is available as part of a Randolph Scott Triple Feature DVD set along with THE MAN BEHIND THE GUN (1953) and THUNDER OVER THE PLAINS (1953). It's also been shown on Turner Classic Movies.
All in all, RIDING SHOTGUN is a solid and very enjoyable Randolph Scott Western.
A reminder for Randolph Scott fans: there's a new six-film set of his movies due out this week!