Monday, August 20, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Raw Edge (1956)

RAW EDGE is a somewhat peculiar Universal Western set in 1840s Oregon Territory, made enjoyable by the teaming of Rory Calhoun and Yvonne DeCarlo.

Powerful land owner Gerald Montgomery (Herbert Rudley) rules an area of Oregon Territory. Montgomery has some strange laws, such as that the first man to claim a widow can have her for his wife, whether she wants to or not.

When Montgomery's wife Hannah (DeCarlo) is molested, Montgomery erroneously convicts and hangs Dan Kirby (John Gilmore, better known as John Gavin). Dan's Indian wife Paca (Mara Corday) is immediately claimed by Montgomery's top man, Doty (Robert J. Wilke), after he fights off challengers.

Into this mess rides Dan's brother Tex (Calhoun), who's determined to have justice for his brother's murder. Anticipating Montgomery's death, the vultures begin circling around Hannah, in the form of slimy Pop Penny (Emile Meyer) and his son Tarp (Neville Brand), along with the cultured gambler John Randolph (Rex Reason). Each of the three men is determined to have Hannah for his own once Tex takes care of Montgomery.

Fortunately Rory Calhoun's Tex is a stalwart Western hero who shows up just in time to protect Hannah from the nasty townsmen who are after her. Hannah can't help being intrigued by handsome Tex, as he treats her with gallantry and she has long since fallen out of love with her husband. And conveniently for Tex, Dan's widow Paca has her own plan to avenge his brother's death.

The film certainly has an original storyline, though it's quite odd; one could think of it as a somewhat distasteful flip side of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954), which was also set in Oregon Territory. I'm hard-pressed to think of another Western where the men fight it out repeatedly for "ownership" of the few women in the area.

DeCarlo and Calhoun are fun to watch, and they look terrific in this film, which was shot in lovely Technicolor.  The movie could have had more substantial development of the lead characters and their relationship, but on the positive side this fast-paced 76-minute film races to a finish before it wears out its welcome. The final scene with its accompanying ballad is nicely done.

Offscreen, Calhoun and DeCarlo were good friends. He wrote the screenplay for her 1955 film SHOTGUN and that same year gave her away at her wedding to stuntman Bob Morgan. At 50 Westerns From the 50s, Toby recently paid tribute to Calhoun on what would have been his 90th birthday. And close to one year ago I posted a birthday tribute to DeCarlo, who would have been 90 this September 1st.

RAW EDGE was directed by John Sherwood. It was filmed by Maury Gertsman.  Much of the movie was filmed outdoors, including in the San Bernardino Mountains.

RAW EDGE is shown from time to time on the Encore Westerns Channel.


Blogger James Corry said...

There are so MANY Universal Westerns from the 50's that have NEVER seen the light of day in ANY home video format ("Raw Edge", "Joe Dakota", "Last Of The Fast Guns" "Pillars Of The Sky" "Man Without A Star" to name just a few)that it's practically beyond belief. I only hope that, one day they are made available either on Universal's "made-on-demand" program or perhaps in partnership with TCM in a box-set (or several!).


6:21 PM  
Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

I've got this DVR'ed off Encore from awhile ago, so I will have to give it a look see soon.
You will appreciate this: yesterday, I treated myself to a double feature of "Westward the Women" and "The Law and Jake Wade"- both for the first time. "Wade" was very good (especially Widmark), but "Women" was top drawer, first rate! Loved it! Taylor was great, as was many of the women and Harry Nakamura as Ito. Fantastic!
And to top it all off, one of my best experiences recently- tonight, my wife and I went to see the 60th Anniversary screening of "Singin' in the Rain" in the theater. For someone who doesn't get to see any classic films on the big screen around here, it was a real treat! Fantastic!

8:12 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I agree, Brad, there are tons of Universals that need to be available, the sooner the better! :) (BTW, my dad tells me that MAN WITHOUT A STAR made it as far as VHS -- but it sells for steep price at Amazon!) The title JOE DAKOTA has been mentioned to me a couple times lately, need to catch up with that one!

J.C., great to hear from you! Hope you enjoy checking RAW EDGE out. It's definitely different.

So glad you got to see those Taylor films -- believe it or not I still have seeing THE LAW AND JAKE WADE ahead of me for the first time. Really look forward to it thanks to the male leads. (So many movies, such little time...) Really delighted you loved WESTWARD THE WOMEN, yay!!

And SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, too, that's wonderful!! So glad it came to your town. Stay in touch!! :)

Best wishes,

7:26 PM  

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