Thursday, July 30, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Duel at Silver Creek (1952) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

There are a number of terrific Blu-ray collections being released this summer by Kino Lorber, but the one I'm most excited about might be the Audie Murphy Collection. 

 The set, releasing on August 4th, includes the excellent NO NAME ON THE BULLET (1959); RIDE A CROOKED TRAIL (1958), which I'll soon be watching for the first time; and THE DUEL AT SILVER CREEK (1952), a real favorite of mine which I first reviewed here in 2014.

THE DUEL AT SILVER CREEK has me smiling with anticipation from the moment the colorful opening credits sequence begins.  Few things in the movies were as beautiful as the opening titles for Universal Pictures Westerns!

Murphy plays the Silver Kid, a fast-drawing young gambler whose father was murdered by claim jumpers.

The Silver Kid might seem to be an unlikely candidate for deputy sheriff, but Marshal Lightning Tyrone (Stephen McNally) needs backup when his own quick draw skills are hampered by an injury to his hand.  Tyrone correctly senses that there's more to the young man than gambling and helps give him a positive purpose and a way to legally avenge his father's killing.

The Silver Kid is also drawn to pretty young Dusty (Susan Cabot), who's had a crush on the older Lightning for too long.  The Silver Kid helps Dusty realize that Lightning sees her as a kid sister and that he's instead interested in a newcomer to town, glamorous Opal Lacy (Faith Domergue).  The Silver Kid, meanwhile, definitely doesn't see Dusty as a sister.

There's a satisfying storyline regarding the claim jumpers, culminating in an outstanding gunfight sequence with excellent stunt work; my favorite moment is when Murphy rides up to a window, leaps off his horse and crashes through the window, gun a-blazing.

I also especially appreciated a shootout between Lightning and Johnny Sombrero (Eugene Iglesias), which builds to an unexpected conclusion, including Johnny giving Lightning some unexpected news regarding Opal.

The movie is very well directed by Don Siegel, who keeps up a terrific pace over the film's 77 minutes while bringing out interesting nuances in the characters' relationships.  

One of the things I enjoy the most about this film is that it flips our expectations of the relationship between Lightning and the Silver Kid; Lightning initially mentors the Silver Kid, yet in time we come to see that as good as Lightning is, he's blinded at times by his emotions, while the Silver Kid coolly assesses people and situations and takes care of business.

I really like McNally, who had a good run in Universal films, and he and Murphy have nice chemistry.  For his part, Murphy was developing into a fine actor whose work, even at this early stage of his career, is consistently underrated.  He has great timing and a memorable way with his lines.

I also love the relationship between the Silver Kid and Dusty, which generates considerable heat in relatively brief screen time.  Murphy and Cabot were very well teamed and would go on to costar in two more top-notch Westerns, GUNSMOKE (1953) and RIDE CLEAR OF DIABLO (1954).

Domergue excelled at playing disturbed women, with the film noir WHERE DANGER LIVES (1954) and the Western ESCORT WEST (1958) being further examples.  Her first sequence as Opal is unexpected and shocking; while her character doesn't get to do anything that surprising in the rest of the film, Domergue is nonetheless compelling as a manipulative woman hiding homicidal tendencies underneath her very beautiful exterior. 

 The supporting cast includes Lee Marvin, Gerald Mohr, James Anderson, Walter Sande, Griff Barnett, Harry Harvey, and Jeff York. 

 The movie was filmed in Technicolor by Irving Glassberg at Southern California locations, including Iverson Ranch.  The script was by Gerald Drayson Adams and Joseph Hoffman, from Adams' story.

In addition to my 2014 review, I also wrote a little about this film in my 2018 column on "Universal Gems" for Classic Movie Hub.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray picture looks terrific, with a sharp picture, and has excellent sound. The disc includes a commentary track by Westerns expert Toby Roan; the trailer; and trailers for two additional films available from Kino Lorber.

Western fans will love this one, and I suspect this "darn good Western" might win over newcomers to the genre as well.  Recommended.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Audie was consistently under-rated, not least by himself,but the more I watch him the better he is. He had that most important attribute - screen presence.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I think I shall dig out The Duel at Silver Creek for the weekend.

The thing that stands out for me about Ride a Crooked Trail is the chemistry between Audie and Gia Scala. It is one of my favourites of his romantic pairings.

5:22 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Absolutely agree, Jerry!

I keep thinking back to Murphy's entrance in NIGHT PASSAGE (1957) and how it took the film to a whole new level of interest. He really did exude charisma and screen presence.

Best wishes,

8:51 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I hope you enjoy revisiting THE DUEL AT SILVER CREEK, Caftan Woman!

I'm really looking forward to seeing RIDE A CROOKED TRAIL! :) :)

Best wishes,

9:02 AM  
Blogger Margot Shelby said...

Duel at Silver Creek is one of my favorite Audie Westerns, and I have a lot of them. This is an all around fun movie. I agree with Paddy, Audie had also good chemistry with Gia Scala. Come to think of it, he had good chemistry with most of his female co-stars.

10:29 AM  
Blogger JMR said...

My one quibble with DUEL AT SILVER CREEK is the decision of the screen writers to have a major character serve as the narrator throughout the course of the action. It is rather difficult to generate any real worry or concern for that character's safety when they clearly have survived it all to tell us the story.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura. put me down for the Audie Murphy fan club. Audie is a really good natural actor who is likable in all of his movies and his screen presence sure was there. Also, I like Stephen McNally. McNally teamed up with Audie again in HELL BENT FOR LEATHER(filmed in 1959, released 1960). I recommend it highly and if you are a fan of Felicia Farr, she is really good with Audie in this one. It's filmed in Lone Pine country, which is always a plus.

4:35 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Margot, what are some of your other favorites? I have seen a number of Audie's films and yet there is still quite a big list to watch for the first time! I have bumped HELL BENT FOR LEATHER into my watch soon stack thanks to Walter and also our friend John K who mentioned it under another review.

JMR, I tend to be a "read the last page of the book person" so the narration didn't bother me -- in fact, I found it reassuring LOL. But I can understand why you or others might not prefer it.

Walter, thanks for the mention of HELL BENT FOR LEATHER, it sounds like something I'll love! Stephen McNally is someone I've really come to appreciate. And you know how I feel about Lone Pine!

Best wishes,

4:57 PM  
Blogger Margot Shelby said...

I'm sure you've seen some of my favorites - not already mentioned - which are: Gunsmoke, Ride Clear of Diablo, The Guns of Fort Petticoat, Hell Bent for Leather, Posse from Hell (quite dark though). I also like Audie's version of Destry.

I have to watch his later movies again, I'm sure there's a few good ones.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you, Margot! I've seen and liked the first three you mention but have not seen HELL BENT FOR LEATHER, POSSE FROM HELL, or DESTRY. I have all three films! HELL BENT FOR LEATHER seems to be a popular choice.

Best wishes,

6:49 PM  

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