Monday, October 11, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Colt .45 (1950)

COLT .45 is a dandy little Randolph Scott Western which jams nonstop action into its scant 74 minutes.

Scott plays Steve Farrell, a Colt .45 salesman who has two of the prized guns stolen by Jason Brett (Zachary Scott). Armed with the guns, Brett begins a reign of terror, leading a gang of robbers and murderers.

Among Brett's gang is Paul Donovan (Lloyd Bridges), whose wife Beth (Ruth Roman) believes her husband is being forced to participate to save their lives. Little does Beth know that her husband is all too willing to take part in Brett's crime spree.

This movie is a terrific example of why Western fans love Randolph Scott movies. All it's missing is some of his trademark laconic humor. The action starts in the first scene, when Brett makes off with the Colt .45's, and it's a breathless ride until Scott's Steve Farrell finally gets his man.

Zachary Scott makes a particularly compelling villain as the feral, remorseless killer, Jason Brett. The rather psychotic Brett character is unusually violent, gunning down helpless people from his first scene to his last; by modern standards, the film isn't graphic, but the violence is disturbing. It's a great example of less being more; I would venture to say that creepy-eyed Zachary Scott gunning down man after man, with barely a spot of blood to be seen, is much more effective than the numbing violence of today's R-rated film.

Of course, this being a Randolph Scott Western, we have a hero capable of standing up to such a monster, and he doesn't let the audience down. My favorite sequence found Randy jumping on top of a stagecoach, then slipping inside to fend off a gold robbery with his six-shooters. An added bonus is there's also a beautiful woman (Roman) who happens to be in the stagecoach!

Roman is a strong heroine who doesn't sit around waiting for someone else to help her. When she's locked up, she dynamites herself out! She rides like the wind, withstands being shot (you won't believe who shoots her), and stands up to Jason Brett with the full knowledge that he could snap and shoot her down like a dog at any moment. The transfer of her affections from her husband to Randolph Scott in the space of a few hours might be stretching it a bit, but given her husband's actions and Scott's heroism, maybe it's believeable at that.

The supporting cast includes Alan Hale, Chief Thundercloud, Ian MacDonald, Stanley Andrews, Monte Blue, Charles Evans, Walter Coy, and many more.

COLT .45 was directed by Edwin L. Marin. It was beautifully filmed in Technicolor by Wilfred Cline, with some obvious "day for night" shooting being the only drawback. The energetic score was by William Lava.

COLT .45 is available on DVD as part of a three-film Randolph Scott set. The other films in the set are FORT WORTH (1951) and TALL MAN RIDING (1955).

As I concluded writing this, I discovered that Moira reviewed this movie last year at Skeins of Thought, and her analysis is just about as entertaining as the film! (I was sure wondering about Lloyd Bridges and Zachary Scott in their last scene together...) She found the movie "great, illogical fun."

Recommended for a very entertaining hour and 14 minutes.

Postscript: In his interesting biography of Zachary Scott, Ronald L. Davis explains that Scott was going through a divorce when he made COLT .45 -- his wife having left him for John Steinbeck. Scott was consequently depressed and drinking too much, and apparently his real-life situation contributed considerably to his wild-eyed characterization. Jack Warner didn't care for the performance and so agreed to lend him out to MGM for SHADOW ON THE WALL (1950).


Blogger DKoren said...

I have to get this one! Sounds like great fun, and I love Randolph Scott westerns.

8:16 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I had a really good time watching this one. Hope you enjoy it too.

Best wishes,

1:31 PM  
Blogger panavia999 said...

Randolph and Zachary Scott in the same film is a must see. I think Zachary Scott is under appreciated these days.

4:38 PM  
Blogger Moira Finnie said...

Thank you for mentioning my older look at this movie, Laura. I missed some of the overt humor that Randolph Scott so readily injected into many of his films, but thought that the presence of so many good actors made the shortcomings of the film less of an obstacle to sheer enjoyment.

The darker elements of the film, such as the violence, the peculiar behavior of Lloyd Bridges' character, Zachary Scott's vicious role, and the feistiness of the Ruth Roman character made it particularly memorable.

You did a great job of making me want to view this movie and made me want to read Ronald Davis' bio of Zachary Scott again, Laura. Thanks so much for sharing your enthusiasm for this film with your readers.


3:36 PM  

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