Friday, May 29, 2015

Tonight's Movie: The Marauders (1955) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Dan Duryea and Jeff Richards star in THE MARAUDERS (1955), an oddball Western recently released by the Warner Archive.

I wanted to try this film on the basis of the cast; Duryea, of course, is a favorite, and the previous year Richards had appeared as Benjamin in one of my all-time favorite films, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954). For that matter, leading lady Jarma Lewis had a scene in SEVEN BRIDES, exclaiming "Lem! I thought you'd never ask!" during the opening number "Bless Yore Beautiful Hide."

In 1955 Lewis also appeared as one of Frank Sinatra's girlfriends in THE TENDER TRAP (1955), and she and Richards costarred in another film, IT'S A DOG'S LIFE (1955).

Richards plays Corey Everett, a desert homesteader whose newly dug well makes his property highly desired by powerful ranch owner John Rutherford (Harry Shannon). Rutherford, his son (John Hudson), and his consumptive bookkeeper Avery (Duryea), along with a bunch of mercenaries headed by the one-armed "Hook" (Keenan Wynn), plan to drive Corey out with guns blazing.

Another homesteader (James Anderson), who's giving up and heading east, stumbles onto Corey's property, along with his wife Hannah (Lewis) and their son (David Kasday), just as the invaders launch their first skirmish. Although the man initially seems to be a good sort, helping Corey in the fight, it turns out he's the friendly con man type, and as soon as he can he runs off to Rutherford's camp to try to strike a deal for safe passage for his family -- and is promptly killed for his trouble by the psychotic Avery.

When Hannah later attempts the same thing, she realizes that Avery is a complete loon who's killed her husband, and she tells him Corey has a large group of men fighting with him before she's allowed to return to Corey's homestead with a message. Now Corey, aided only by Hannah and her little boy, must fight off Avery and his "army" of invaders.

The movie is interesting but has a couple of significant problems. The main issue is that Avery is such a crazed maniac, it's rather unbelievable that Hook (Wynn) or someone else wouldn't have gunned him down much earlier in order to stop his reign of terror. He's that bad. Duryea gives his all to an unusual role (a psycho murderous...bookkeeper?!), but it's not a part which calls for the nuances Duryea is capable of bringing to a role, and you just want to see him finally die already.

The other issue is the story's imbalance. I was quite interested in the struggling homesteader, his gradually thawing relations with the bitter Hannah, the subtle development of a new family (it's sort of HONDO in reverse), and Corey's creative weaponry, which fools the men who want his property into thinking he's got a veritable army. If the movie had spent much more time at the homestead and much less time watching the crazy Avery tormenting various men, it would have been a far better film. A more believable enemy would have also made for a more plausible story.

In the end, there was enough of interest that I enjoyed checking the movie out, but it's a flawed film which is not one of the better Westerns I've seen recently. It's probably mostly for those who, like me, are interested in the cast, or for die-hard Western fans who want to see a melding of a familiar theme (strong Western hero, widow, and child banding together) with the really wild (Duryea plus lots of explosives).

THE MARAUDERS was directed by Gerald Mayer, nephew of Louis B. Mayer. It was filmed by Harold Marzorati, who had a fairly short career but had a good Stewart Granger Western, GUN GLORY (1957), among his credits. The movie was shot in Mecca, California.

This nice-looking widescreen DVD includes the trailer.

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


Blogger Jerry E said...

Yup, not really the western film's finest hour! LOL. It somehow could have been so much better than it turned out. One of those films I'm glad to have seen but am unlikely to return to.

11:46 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I agree, I think there was a pretty good story in here, if only the movie had focused on it! It had a lot of potential, and I also liked the fairly unusual location. The right person could have edited this script into something much better, but alas, it didn't happen.

Best wishes,

11:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I have a copy of this one but I've yet to watch it. It sounds unusual, to say the least.


10:31 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Much as I love old Dan, your review has me aching to see the cheeky "It's a Dog's Life" again. Ha!

11:49 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Colin, I look forward to your take on this film when you get a chance!

Caftan Woman, you're in luck -- IT'S A DOG'S LIFE (1955) runs on TCM on June 16th!

Best wishes,

11:28 PM  

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