Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Westbound (1959) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

WESTBOUND (1959) is the fifth and final film I've reviewed from the Warner Archive's Randolph Scott Classics Collection.

WESTBOUND is one of the seven late '50s Westerns starring Randolph Scott and directed by Budd Boetticher. While WESTBOUND can't compare with Scott and Boetticher's masterpieces SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (1956), THE TALL T (1957), RIDE LONESOME (1959), or COMANCHE STATION (1960), I nonetheless like WESTBOUND a great deal.

Some consider WESTBOUND the least of the "Ranown Cycle," as the Scott-Boetticher films are often known, but I actually prefer it to DECISION AT SUNDOWN (1957) and BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE (1958). I liked WESTBOUND a lot when I first reviewed it February 2011, and I thoroughly enjoyed returning to it four years later, having completed seeing all of the Ranown films in the meantime.

WESTBOUND may not have some of the angst or sharply delineated and well-written characters of the other Ranown films, but it excels as a well-made traditional Western; in fact, it "feels" closer to a Warner Bros. Western -- Scott's WB Western SHOOT-OUT AT MEDICINE BEND (1957) being a good comparison -- than it does to something like THE TALL T.

Though the style is different, since I like Warner Bros. '50s Westerns WESTBOUND works well for me -- this is "movie comfort food" at its best. Any movie which introduces Michael Pate dressed in black, sitting in the middle of a bunch of mean-looking cowhands on a Warner Bros. Western town set, is a movie which is going to make me smile.

The Civil War is raging, and Captain John Hayes (Randolph Scott) is ordered to leave his regiment and resume his career running a stage line in the West, where he's charged with ensuring that gold from California will be delivered safely to the North to fund the war.

Hayes recruits a one-armed Union veteran, Rod Miller (Michael Dante), and Miller's wife Jeannie (Karen Steele of RIDE LONESOME) to run a Colorado stage station.

Upon returning to the West, Hayes also discovers his former love Norma (Virginia Mayo) is now married to Clay Putnam (Andrew Duggan), a Southern sympathizer determined to see that the stage line fails.

Hayes patiently puts up with quite a lot from those who hate him and the Union, but when he decides it's time to shoot it out, look out.

Scott is simply terrific, as always, and WESTBOUND is short and sweet, wrapping up after 72 minutes of action. It's the perfect little "Saturday afternoon matinee" Western.

Steele has a good role as the spunky Jeannie, who memorably slugs a villain, while Mayo is sadly underused. The supporting cast includes Wally Brown, John Daheim, Walter Barnes, Walter Reed, Rory Mallinson, and Kermit Maynard. Look for Peter Brown (LAWMAN) in a bit role.

The Warner Archive DVD is beautiful, nicely showcasing J. Peverell Marley's excellent WarnerColor photography. WarnerColor can be harsh or uneven but in this case the movie looks really good.

The DVD also sounds terrific, showing off a jaunty score by David Buttolph which adds a lot to the movie's atmosphere.

There are no extras on the DVD.

Previous reviews of the other titles in this DVD collection: BADMAN'S TERRITORY (1946), TRAIL STREET (1947), RETURN OF THE BAD MEN (1948), and CARSON CITY (1952).

In addition to the five-film Randolph Scott Classics Collection, WESTBOUND can be purchased from the Warner Archive as a single-title release.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the WBShop.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do so agree that Virginia Mayo is sadly underused. A good part for Michael Dante and Andrew Duggan.

1:05 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

So glad you reviewed this fine little western, Laura, thus completing your reviews of the Scott set.

I am fully in line that it is not up there with the best of the Ranown films but just taking it as a stand-alone Scott western, I think it is just great. Certainly more old-fashioned than the afore-mentioned films, or maybe just traditional, it pushes all the right buttons.

Duggan is very good and especially Karen Steele who really makes us notice her (for several reasons) as a feisty young woman faced with frontier hardships. And Scott is terrific.

8:03 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Regarding Virginia Mayo:

Westbound was her final WB release. As I understand it, during the course of production she was having extensive oral surgery and largely unavailable, although she certainly looks terrific.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

"Any movie which introduces Michael Pate dressed in black, sitting in the middle of a bunch of mean-looking cowhands on a Warner Bros. Western town set, is a movie which is going to make me smile." You just made me smile! You should put that on a t-shirt.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all for your comments! Glad to know others are fond of this one as well. And Barrylane, thanks for adding that insight into a reason we might have seen less of Mayo than hoped.

This is a Western I'll be going back to every so often, it's good stuff. :)

Best wishes,

12:39 AM  

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