BULLET IS WAITING (director: John Farrow; screenwriters:
from the story by Thames Williamson/Casey Robinson;
cinematographer: Franz Planer; editor: Otto Ludwig;
music: Dimitri Tiomkin; cast: Jean Simmons (Cally
Canham), Rory Calhoun (Ed Stone), Stephen McNally
(Sheriff Munson), Brian Aherne (David Canham);
Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Howard Welsch;
Columbia Pictures; 1954)
"Plays out as a minor thriller."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
John Farrow ("Hondo"/"Plunder of the Sun"/"Where Danger Lives") directs this unappealing social conscience film that plays out as a minor thriller based on a story by Thames Williamson and written by Casey Robinson. It's shot in lush Technicolor, that does justice in capturing the rugged scenery.
A small plane crashes just off the California coast. The pilot is killed. The two passengers are Utah Sheriff Frank Munson (Stephen McNally) and his prisoner Ed Stone (Rory Calhoun). They are handcuffed together, and in their struggle Ed overtakes Frank, who has a sprained ankle. Stone then unlocks the cuffs and flees into the nearby mountains, where he soon comes across the tomboyish English girl Cally Canham (Jean Simmons) who is taking care of a herd of sheep with her collie dog Shep. Munson follows and when he catches up with Stone, he warns Cally not to help him because he's a wanted killer he's been tracking for two years and finally caught him in Bisbee. Cally lives in the isolated ranch with her father, a former philosophy professor at Oxford, who went to the mainland in his Jeep for supplies. Because of recent storms, it's not possible to move through the mountain pass and the three are stuck together. The heavy rain starts up again and lasts for three nights. During this time, Munson's sprain heals. We also learn that Ed is accused of killing Frank's brother in a dispute over money that was owed him that the brother refused to pay him, and only killed him in self-defense because he was attacked first. It's also revealed that Frank, who comes from an influential family, had himself deputized only in order to legally pursue his brother's killer. Things get even more verbose, if possible, when Cally's pacifist dad David (Brian Aherne) returns and tries to get both men to go back to Vernal, Utah to settle the charges, and he also realizes that his sheltered, well-bred and lonely daughter has fallen in love with the handsome but uneducated Stone.
Philosophy is not to prevail in resolving this sticky situation; what settles things is what the one with the last bullet remaining does, as Stone and Munson after getting their hands on weapons have a go at it. The superficial psychology of the melodrama comes with a bogus contrived ending that seems lifted from a Screenwriting 101 course.
Everyone seems to be going through the motions, offering one-note performances—with no one's character being even remotely believable.
REVIEWED ON 12/30/2007 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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