Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Cripple Creek (1952)

George Montgomery and Jerome Courtland are appealing as a pair of undercover Secret Service agents on the trail of gold smugglers in the old West, but on the whole CRIPPLE CREEK is a minor Western.

The film starts out on a very hokey note, with a fake Western landscape behind the town set, cowboys having a gun battle which looks as phony as an amusement park stunt show, and a booming extended voiceover by longtime Disney voice artist Paul Frees. Although the film has nice color and entertaining moments, it's hampered by poor dialogue, some awkward performances (particularly by William Bishop as the smuggling mastermind), and too many murky "day for night" scenes.

Montgomery and his younger sidekick Courtland arrive in Cripple Creek pretending to be rough gunfighter types in order to take the bad guys into their confidence. They already have another agent (Richard Egan) in town feeding them intelligence. The plot is fairly straightforward, as the agents figure out the smuggling scheme and then bring the villains to justice. There's a small twist near the ending but otherwise nothing very exciting, although there was one scene in the last third of the film that I found very unpleasant.

Montgomery is a personable and believable Western hero. Courtland, seen as a teenager last fall in TOGETHER AGAIN (1944), does a good job as the hotheaded younger agent. Courtland went on to a long career as both a Disney movie producer and a TV director of shows such as DYNASTY and FALCON CREST.

Karin Booth, who plays Julie, the saloon girl, spent much of the '40s at MGM. She graduated from bit parts to larger roles in a few feature films, most notably playing La Darina in the Margaret O'Brien-Cyd Charisse ballet film THE UNFINISHED DANCE (1947). After leaving MGM in the late '40s, she was the leading lady in a variety of Westerns and adventure films, including titles such as JUNGLE MAN-EATERS (1954) in Johnny Weissmuller's JUNGLE JIM series. She was mostly retired by 1959, and she passed away in 2003.

As a side note, I have no idea why Booth's character is on the ground in the film's posters! That's not a scene from the film.

CRIPPLE CREEK was directed by Ray Nazarro. It runs 78 minutes. The supporting cast includes John Dehner, Roy Roberts, Don Porter, Byron Foulger, and George Cleveland.

The film does not appear to have had a video or DVD release. It can be seen on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is here.


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