Monday, August 19, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Robbers' Roost (1955)

ROBBERS' ROOST has one of those casts guaranteed to make a '50s Western fan smile: George Montgomery, Richard Boone, Peter Graves, Leo Gordon, Warren Stevens, and Bruce Bennett. I really enjoyed this one.

The story, based on a novel by Zane Grey, is about a crippled rancher (Bennett) with a large herd he needs to get to market. He decides to hire two rival gangs of rustlers, headed by Boone and Graves, to move the cattle as he figures the two "teams of rivals" will each fight tooth and nail to prevent the other gang from stealing the cattle, and just maybe amidst the chaos he'll be able to hang on to the herd.

A mysterious cowboy in a black hat (Montgomery) rides into the area and is hired by Boone. The cowboy is ostensibly another up-to-no-good bad guy, but when no one is looking he's carefully checking out the brands on the outlaws' horses, and he's quite gallant when it comes to protecting the rancher's sister (Sylvia Findley) from Boone and the other men, who include Gordon and Stevens.

The gangs decide to throw in together to steal the herd and split the proceeds, and then things get really interesting...

The story reminded me a bit of later Randolph Scott Westerns such as RIDE LONESOME (1959), with Montgomery as a man with a painful past and a mission of vengeance. I'd only planned to watch the first half of this last night, but I was having such a good time watching it that I stayed up much later than planned, finishing its 83 minutes all in one sitting!

I loved Montgomery's character, and as Montgomery was an experienced horseman who grew up on a ranch in Montana, he looked completely at home in the Western setting. I also loved the handsome Montgomery's black hat; Toby mentions the hat and shares a nice photo at 50 Westerns From the 50s.  I've only seen a couple Montgomery Westerns, but I'll definitely be checking out more of them in the future.

To be sure, ROBBERS' ROOST is not a perfect film; there's too much day for night shooting, and Sylvia Findley's performance was awkward, particularly in the early going. (This was Findley's second and final film. If IMDb is to be believed, she was considerably older than Montgomery, but she sure didn't show it; I suspect the date is an error. 2019 Update: Her birth date is no longer at IMDb.) However, the imperfections were more than made up for by an engrossing story and a terrific cast of actors who cumulatively made countless Westerns. I found the film very enjoyable, with a satisfying conclusion.

I was thus rather surprised that both Leonard Maltin and Boyd Magers of Western Clippings disliked the film. I'd encourage anyone interested in the movie to give it a try, as I enjoyed it so much more than they did.

The movie was directed by Sidney Salkow from a screenplay by Salkow, John O'Dea, and Maurice Geraghty. It was filmed in Eastmancolor by Jack Draper. The location work looked different from the typical Western; according to IMDb, it was filmed in Durango, Mexico.

The Zane Grey novel was filmed in 1932 with George O'Brien and Maureen O'Sullivan; given how much I enjoy those leads, I'm quite anxious to get my hands on a copy of that one!

ROBBERS' ROOST is available on DVD-R from MGM. It's a nice widescreen print with just a couple scenes having faint lines marring the picture.

This film has also been shown in the past on Encore Westerns Channel, so it's possible it may show up there again one day.


Blogger Blake Lucas said...

I like that one too. And like you, I was very taken with George Montgomery's hat. I guess everyone probably reacts that way to it. That guy could wear a hat!

11:59 PM  
Blogger john k said...

Hi Laura,
Like you I thought Maltin and Magers were unduly hard on
ROBBERS ROOST which I too really enjoyed. I am glad that
the MGM/UA MOD series gave us a lovely widescreen copy
of this film before the series bit the dust!
Always liked George Montgomery;Toby has always
championed MASTERSON OF KANSAS and I really like that
one too.JACK McCALL DESPERADO is another Sam Katzman
Western directed by Sidney Salkow and is great fun
though historical facts are disposed of from the word
go.Douglas Kennedy is a really nasty Wild Bill Hickok!
I liked all of the things George did for Sam Katzman
apart from SEMINOLE UPRISING which has far to much
stock footage. Other top-drawer George Montgomery to
"Colonial" Westerns FORT TI and THE PATHFINDER.
Caught up with a Montgomery non Western that I have been
after for ages....HUK! a fierce action film where he
is teamed with Mona Freeman.Among all the raging action
there are some complex adult themes in the mix as well.
Some of the stunt work George performs in this one,look
to me to be very dangerous.Mona gets caught up in all the mayhem too;at the close of the picture she looks
totally shattered; and she did not seem to be acting
Its good to finally catch up with movies that you have
wanted to see for years;I saw WILD BLUE YONDER over
the weekend and found that it was really worth the
really long wait.On the way to me is FLIGHT NURSE
which again I am really looking forward to.

4:58 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

This is a flat-out terrible picture in which none of the players manage to connect with anyone. Not a success at any level. Magers and Maltin are right on.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Blake, your comment on Montgomery's hat made me smile! :) So glad to know that you and John also enjoyed ROBBERS' ROOST. (Barrylane, all I can say is if that was a flat-out terrible picture, I'd like to see more terrible pictures just like it, LOL.)

John, as always your comments pointing me toward additional viewing are very welcome. You and Blake have each been such great resources for future viewing ideas, and I really appreciate it!

I have a few Montgomery films on hand I've recorded over time, mostly from Encore Westerns, and I went through my collection and made a checklist of his films I have available yesterday.

I also recently got the nifty, inexpensive Movies 4 You: Western Classics collection with two of the four films starring Montgomery. I watched GUN BELT late last night -- Douglas Kennedy's in that one too! -- and will be reviewing it soon.

FLIGHT NURSE has been on my wish list! Would love to hear more about it. I looked up WILD BLUE YONDER -- what a great cast!!

Best wishes,

10:24 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Bruce Bennett? I'm in.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

John Knight, if you're still here please do let us know where you found FLIGHT NURSE--it is on my want list too.

11:58 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

I have just ordered the MGM/DVD from Amazon. Will probably take a cople of weeks for me to sit down with it -- but I will. I saw Robber's Roost initially about ten years ago with a copy supplied by Marvin of the Movies -- and I don't think the source was any kind of problem. Maybe it's me. I will get back to you and call it the way I see it. REversing course is not impossible.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I think that's great you're willing to take another look at it, Barrylane. I hope you'll enjoy it more, if only so your investment in the film isn't wasted! Folks whose opinions I respect seem to be split down the middle on this one.

For my part, other than the flaws I commented on in my post, I found the film very absorbing and enjoyable -- simply nice solid filmmaking with a good story as the foundation -- and I'll definitely be going back to it in the future.

Best wishes,

8:04 PM  
Blogger john k said...

Dear Blake Lucas,

As you no doubt know I am based in the UK,but I have found
an amazing (UK based) contact who has certain USA contacts who
can source most (but not all) of my wants.
As I have said (too) many times on Tobys blog I have given up
on Olive Films providing the Republic Films that I want
(Rod Cameron Westerns,Allan Dwan...) so I have decided to
source them for myself.
I think most of these come from Netflix (USA)
they seem to show lots of old Republic titles.
There are,as I am sure you know some real gems to be found
with this more obscure Republic output.
I recently went into great detail,on Tobys blog on an excellent
Rod Cameron Western SAN ANTONE which I was very impressed with.
WILD BLUE YONDER has an amazing cast and is a tense,complex movie.
I should imagine FLIGHT NURSE comes from Netflix but I cannot
confirm this.At any rate the Allan Dwan/Joan Leslie combo makes
it a must see for me.
Most of my "Holy Grails" come up trumps but there are some that
miss the mark.
Laura mentioned STORM FEAR recently so I tracked that one down too.
I like Cornel Wilde a lot but was very underwhelmed by STORM FEAR.
I also tracked down other Wilde titles like THE DEVILS HAIRPIN and
MARICIABO but again found both films wanting.
Its a shame because I really like Wildes later films that he directed like
Perhaps he just needed time before he hit his stride as a director.

1:55 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Re STrom Fear -- Not to be contrary, but I thought this film sensational -- and especially Wilde's performance. Maracaibo was a disappointment but had plenty going for it just the same, particularly Jean Wallace, a much under valued performer. Aormenbnd the special effects.

9:37 AM  

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