Sunday, April 25, 2021

Tonight's Movie: The Ride Back (1957) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Anthony Quinn and William Conrad star in the Western THE RIDE BACK (1957), which is part of a "Double Feature" collection of Quinn Westerns recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

I previously reviewed the other film in the set, MAN FROM DEL RIO (1956), which featured Katy Jurado along with Quinn.

THE RIDE BACK was produced by Conrad and Robert Aldrich. The sreenplay was written by Antony Ellis, with direction from Allen H. Miner and the uncredited Oscar Rudolph.

THE RIDE BACK had been recommended by friends of this blog, including in the comments for MAN FROM DEL RIO, and I'm glad to say it did not disappoint; indeed, it impressed. I found THE RIDE BACK one of the more satisfying viewing experiences I've enjoyed this year, leaving me with the feeling that I'd made a special new discovery.

The film begins with the title song sung by Eddie Albert, who does a fine job. Some viewers may associate Albert with acting roles in movies (including the recently reviewed CAPTAIN NEWMAN, M.D.) or TV comedies, but he also had a background in musical theater.

Sheriff Chris Hamish (Conrad) starts out from his small border town to bring back accused murderer Bob Kallen (Quinn) for trial.

Hamish must venture into Mexico, where as a non-Spanish speaker he struggles to communicate with people he meets as he hunts for Kallen. I found it highly effective and somewhat unique that a significant percentage of the film's dialogue is in Spanish, which was not only realistic but helped viewers understand Hamish's difficulty in being understood.

Hamish is ultimately assisted by a priest (Victor Millan) who is unhappy that Kallen is living with his cousin (Lita Milan) without benefit of marriage.

The first step of Hamish's mission is completed when he takes Kallen into custody, but they're still facing a long ride back.

This compact 79-minute film was simply excellent, with good writing, fine lead performances, and memorably stark black and white photography by Joseph Biroc. I appreciated that there are no pat characters or easy answers in this film, including at the conclusion.

Conrad is really outstanding, effectively playing a man who is simultaneously determined and a bit scared; as the saying goes, bravery is being afraid but saddling up anyway, and that's just what Hamish does.

Quinn is just as fine, playing an ambiguous character who has done some bad things but also has positive traits which draw women, children, and friends to his side. I'd also note that I was impressed by how different Quinn's characterization was compared to the socially awkward MAN FROM DEL RIO.

The central theme, with a man whose life has been rather a disappointment bringing someone to justice, is similar to 3:10 TO YUMA (1957), which came out several months later; 3:10 TO YUMA is by far the better-known film, but for my money THE RIDE BACK is superior.

Both films have excellent casts, but I found 3:10 TO YUMA talky and overly drawn out; by comparison THE RIDE BACK tells its story more efficiently and is the better for it. THE RIDE BACK conveys a great deal about both its lead characters while also being exciting and well-paced, with an excellent ending.

THE RIDE BACK also shares a couple of plot points with DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE (1957), which came out the same month. (It's interesting how films with similar themes will so often come out in bunches.) The theme of the lawman and his quarry facing difficult obstacles is a familiar one to Western fans, including one of my favorite films in the genre, RIDE CLEAR OF DIABLO (1954). I'll skip elaborating further on these aspects in the interest of leaving more of the story for readers to discover when they watch themselves.

The sharp-looking widescreen Kino Lorber Blu-ray is from a brand-new 2K master. In addition to the other film on the disc, there's a trailer and a gallery of trailers for additional films available from Kino Lorber.

This film was a pleasant surprise, and I recommend this set.

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


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

So pleased you really enjoyed "THE RIDE BACK",Laura, as I felt you would.

William Conrad had more success in most of his career as a character actor, not having the conventional good looks for leading man roles and for his fine, sonorous voice. He starred on radio for years as Marshal Matt Dillon in "GUNSMOKE" but was not considered right when it went to TV. It was this very fact that was used so successfully in "THE RIDE BACK".

11:32 PM  
Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura, a good write-up of a favorite Western Movie of mine. I thought that you would like THE RIDE BACK. I personally think the movie is a gem. Isn't it wonderful to be pleasantly surprised with a new find.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Jerry and Walter!

I really appreciate your past comments on this film as they encouraged me to get to this screener sooner rather than later! It's definitely so nice to make a new find like this -- this title will be an easy addition to my 2021 "Favorite Discoveries" list.

Hope your encouragement along with my own review will induce others to give this really interesting movie a try.

Best wishes,

2:24 PM  

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