BULLWHIP (director: Harmon Jones; screenwriter: Adele Buffington; cinematographer: John Martin; editor: Thor Brooks; music:  Leith Stevens; cast: Guy Madison (Steve Daley), Rhonda Fleming (Cheyenne Julie O'Malley), James Griffith ('Slow' Karp), Dan Sheridan (Podo), Don Beddoe (Judge Carr),  Peter Adams (John Parnell), Burt Nelson (Pine Hawk); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Broidy; Allied Artists; 1958)

"More of a strained romantic comedy than a B western."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

more of a romantic comedy than a western

More of a strained romantic comedy than a B western. It's a Taming of the Shrew inspired comedy, that is handled in too farcical a manner to smoothly work. But even if it isn't exactly Shakespeare, it is nevertheless somewhat interesting. Too bad its lead actor Guy Madison is so wooden and shows no inclination for comedy.

Harmon Jones ("As Young as You Feel"/"The Kid From Left Field"/"Canyon River") does a decent enough job directing. Martin makes good use of the location shots with his fine CinemaScope photography. The always adept writer Adele Buffington turns in a workable screenplay, in her last ever film script.

The innocent Steve Daley (Guy Madison) is set to hang for a murder he did not commit because the corrupt Judge Carr (Don Beddoe) rigged false evidence against him. The judge, in the 11th hour, visits and  says that he will reverse the guilty verdict if Steve agrees to a marriage of convenience with a mystery part-Cheyenne woman (Rhonda Fleming) and then he must immediately leave her. The tale told is that her husband just died and she must be married to collect a substantial inheritance that stipulates in her father's will that she is to be married before collecting. Cheyenne wields the bullwhip of the title.

Steve is told to sign a blank marriage certificate, which will ensure that he does not know his bride's real name. After the wedding ceremony they kiss and she disappears into a carriage. While in the street as a free man, carrying the judge's affidavit, a gunslinger named Karp (James Griffith) fires at him but misses. To the rescue comes Steve's pal Podo
Dan Sheridan), who takes him on his horse and they gallop off together. At the sheriff's office, Cheyenne O'Malley pays the judge for making the marriage arrangements and a bonus to ensure his safety.

Meanwhile outside of town Steve and Podo meet the untrustworthy John Parnell (Peter Adams), the owner of a rival fur trading company. He informs the innocents that Cheyenne is an Indian princess and a knowledgeable and ambitious Irish fur trader, who was forced into marriage to conform with her father's will for inheritance. John also states that under state law, Steve now owns the O'Malley trading company. Parnell offers Steve a large reward if he can get Cheyenne to guarantee his supply wagons free passage through Indian country and he offers Karp, who will use an alias, $5,000 to protect Steve as they ride with Cheyenne's wagons to her home in Sheridan, Wyoming. Now the plot thickens, as on the trail the heroine will succumb to her hubby's charms in their attempt to be a real couple.

It had too little action for a Western and the 1950s restraints on marriage giving men the complete upper-hand seemed out-dated, nevertheless a touch of the Bard in a B western can't be all bad.

REVIEWED ON 1/22/2015       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"


By today's standards "Bullwhip" is very wrong, it is sexist, racist and to be honest quite cheesy but this convoluted western which sees Rhonda Fleming playing a tough trail boss being tamed by a man she marries to inherit her father's business is also entertaining. In fact whilst a western by setting "Bullwhip" has more in common with a romantic comedy as Steve Daley tries to tame his wife whilst she tries to fight him every step of the way. There is more to it than that with a gunman who finds himself hired by one man to kill Daley and then by another to protect him whilst there are also a couple of dodgy business men to convolute things. But at its heart "Bullwhip" is all about Daley taming his wife and the comedy of it all.

With it looking like he is facing the hangman's noose Steve Daley (Guy Madison - The Last Frontier) gets an unusual proposition from the town's judge. If he marries a woman without asking any questions or knowing her name he will receive a pardon and can go on his way. Understandably agreeing Steve meets the nameless woman and as soon as she has gone plans to get on his way, except a gunman called 'Slow' Karp (James Griffith) is waiting to kill him. Having avoided Karp, Daley then finds himself in the company of fur trader John Parnell (Peter Adams) who tells Steve that he has been tricked into marrying his rival fur trader Cheyenne (Rhonda Fleming - Gunfight at the O.K. Corral) and cuts a deal to try and get his hands on half of her business. And so Steve goes in search of the fiercely independent Cheyenne to claim what is rightfully his, not so much her but the business she inherited when she married him.

So as already mentioned "Bullwhip" is more akin to a romantic comedy than a true western and the set up really establishes this as we see Daley approached by a corrupt judge to marry a woman in return for a pardon to save him from the hang man's noose. It's daft and purposefully so and as are all the details such as the story the judge gives him about the woman being a widow and so he doesn't try and track her down after their arranged marriage he's not allowed to know her name. It's not all out comedy, there is no slapstick or major jokes but funny for basically being unbelievable.

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