Sunday, September 10, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Cow Country (1953) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

The Edmond O'Brien film COW COUNTRY (1953) may be one of the most enjoyable little Westerns you've never heard of. It's an Allied Artists film available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Coincidentally today, September 10th, is O'Brien's birthdate; my 2015 centennial tribute to the actor may be found here. It's always a good time to watch an Edmond O'Brien movie, but the timing today was especially perfect!

O'Brien stars in COW COUNTRY as Ben Anthony, who runs a freight business in an area where cattle ranchers are struggling to stay in business.

When Linda Garnet (Helen Westcott of THE GUNFIGHTER) returns to town, she promptly becomes engaged to Ben's best friend Harry (Robert Lowery). Linda doesn't know that Harry is two-timing her with poor but lovely Melba (Peggie Castle) and that he's engaged to both women simultaneously, nor does Linda know that Harry is plotting with banker Parker (Barton MacLane) and Sledge (Robert J. Wilke) to drive ranchers, including her own father, out of business!

Needless to say, Linda has chosen the wrong man, as Ben is kind and ethical -- and sparks fly when he gives her a congratulatory kiss upon news of her engagement.

COW COUNTRY is what some Western fans, myself included, like to call a "darn good Western." It may not be a classic of the genre, but it features an excellent cast in a strong story, based on a novel by Curtis Bishop. It was directed by Lesley Selander, who did some very good work in the Western genre, including the later ARROW IN THE DUST (1954) and SHOTGUN (1955).

While the film went no further than the Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, Harry Neumann shot a good-looking black and white film; it's set largely outdoors, with other locations including the familiar Iverson Ranch.

My sole complaint about the film is a rare one for me; I would have liked it to be a few minutes longer than its 82 minutes! A little more resolution for the stories of the two lead couples would have been welcome.

O'Brien is not someone who typically comes to mind as a Western star, but I've really enjoyed him in the handful of Westerns he made and wish he'd filmed more. This one is my favorite; Ben is simply a terrific guy it's a pleasure to watch, whether he's bailing out the local grocer (Don Beddoe) at the bank or facing down Sledge (Wilke) for a slam-bang fistfight.

The movie is also a marvelous chance for Castle to shine as the poor girl who dreams of finer things. Her revenge scene with a whip is unforgettable, and she has a touching, slowly developed love story with the wonderful James Millican, who plays Fritz, an immigrant farmer. They're simply terrific, and this film cements Millican being one of my favorite Western actors of the '50s. It's a great tragedy that he would die of cancer in 1955.

In short, this is an entertaining film which should be seen by fans of O'Brien, Castle, or Western fans in general. For more on this film, my 2012 review may be found here, and there's a nice appreciation of the movie by Toby Roan at 50 Westerns From the 50s.

The Warner Archive DVD looks and sounds very good. There are no extras.

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 or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger Patrick said...

Robert Wilkie was a staple in just about every western of the 50s! I believe I saw him no less then 6 times in "Have Gun,Will Travel"!
I have seen the whipping scene in "Cow Country" and its extremely brutal even in today's world. Nice review!


11:20 PM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Yes, a really strong little western, expertly directed by Les Selander as one could expect. What is less expected is how good and believable O'Brien is as a tough western figure. Always great in 'noir' but he fits like a glove here too.
Time spent with Peggie Castle is always a pleasure for this fella! LOL

11:36 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Mulling over O'Brien titles yesterday I came across this one and wondered why I had never seen it. Now you have me champing at the bit, as "an entertaining western" is just my thing. You made my day!

5:43 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Glad to have the endorsement of fellow fans of this movie (and its cast and director!).

Caftan Woman, I think you will really like this one!

Best wishes,

10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

O'Brien doesn't bother with a cornball movie cowboy accent here. In fact, he seldom changes his beautifully trained voice in his movies. Somehow, though, the choice always fits!

7:48 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Anonymous, your comment makes me think I still need to see Edmond O'Brien in JULIUS CAESAR. I'm curious how the voices of the various cast members will meld, including his! Always enjoy him. :)

Best wishes,

2:53 PM  

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