Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Utah Blaine (1957)

UTAH BLAINE (1957) is a solid little Rory Calhoun Western. It's a bit underdeveloped, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Calhoun plays Utah Blaine, a gunslinger heading north from a stint in a Mexican prison when he rescues Joe Neal (Ken Christy) from being strung up by Russ Nevers (Ray Teal). The land-greedy Nevers wants Neal's land.

Blaine makes a deal with Neal to sign on as his foreman, and when Neal is later killed, it transpires he's willed his ranch to Blaine and Angie Kinyon (Susan Cummings), whose rancher father was killed by Nevers. Along with Blaine's friend Rip Coker (Paul Langton) and neighboring ranch owner Mary Blake (Angela Stevens), Blaine and Angie rally the townspeople against Nevers and his gang.

UTAH BLAINE isn't quite on a par with Calhoun's other 1957 Westerns, THE HIRED GUN (1957) and DOMINO KID (1957), chiefly because the range war plot is a little hard to follow. There are a number of characters to track, and it's also a bit confounding, after Blaine saves Neal, that Neal is almost offhandedly done away with off camera.

Robert E. Kent's screenplay was based on a story by Louis L'Amour. Clocking in at just 75 minutes, this is a good film which would have benefitted from a few more minutes establishing characters and relationships.

That said, any Rory Calhoun Western is worth seeing, as far as I'm concerned. Calhoun brings a compelling edge to his gunslinger characters; he may be on the side of right here but he can be a little scary about seeing justice is done!

I think Calhoun is especially suited to black and white Westerns, with this one filmed by Benjamin H. Kline.

Cummings and Stevens are spunky leading ladies; again, a bit more development of their relationships with Calhoun and Langton would have been most welcome. Cummings is a feisty gal so one can see her being a good match for Calhoun's character, but their pairing up is almost taken for granted.

UTAH BLAINE was directed by Fred F. Sears.

UTAH BLAINE turns up from time to time on the Starz Encore Westerns Channel. At this writing it's also on YouTube, but it could disappear from there at any time. Despite my comments on how the movie could have been improved, '50s Westerns fans will find it worth checking out.


Blogger Jerry E said...

This is a western I finally got to see only a few years ago. Like Laura, any Rory Calhoun western is welcome on my screen. But I really enjoyed this one a great deal and found it among Rory's best personally. I think he was underrated as an actor, being so much more than just a western star though a real 'natural' in that genre.

Susan Cummings is an actress one doesn't see too often and I found her very good in this. Principally, I know her from starring with Jeff Morrow in a (extremely rare) TV western called "UNION PACIFIC" which was shown here by the BBC in 1959-60. Never seen it since then and it has never surfaced on videotape or DVD (or even bootlegged as far as I know). It was made by a company called California National Productions. CNR also made around the same time another (almost) impossible-to-find cavalry series "BOOTS AND SADDLES", a very fine show shot almost entirely on location around Kanab, Utah if memory serves me! Wish that one would turn up on a pristine set from one of our favourite sources.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Jerry! Glad to know you liked this one so well. I really liked what was there, mostly wanted more of it LOL, which I felt would have also helped me track the story more easily.

Great background on Susan Cummings from you, an actress I don't really know. Very interesting!

I picked up Calhoun's TV Western series THE TEXAN on sale a while back, looking forward to checking it out along with Calhoun's other Western films (including RED SUNDOWN!).

Best wishes,

12:24 PM  

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