|DRANGO (directors: Hall Bartlett/Jules Bricken; screenwriter: Hall Bartlett; cinematographer: James Wong Howe; editor: Leon Selditz; music: Elmer Bernstein; cast: Jeff Chandler (Major Clint Drango), John Lupton (Capt. Marc Banning), Joanne Dru (Kate Calder), Julie London (Shelby Ransom), Morris Ankrum (Henry Calder), Ronald Howard (Clay Allen), Donald Crisp (Judge Allen), Barney Phillips (Rev. Giles Cameron), Milburn Stone (Col. Bracken), David Stollery (Jeb Bryant), Walter Sande (Dr. Blair); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hall Bartlett; MGM/UA; 1957)|
but thought-provoking post-Civil War drama."
by Dennis Schwartz
Bartlett ("Unchained"/"Zero Hour"/"The
Caretakers") co-directs with future long-time TV
director Jules Bricken ("Danny Jones"/"Explosion")
this underwhelming but thought-provoking post-Civil
War drama, about a small southern town seeking revenge
for Union misdeeds and the redemption of a soldier who
feels responsible for causing the town so much pain
during the war. Incredibly, the script by Bartlett, set in 1865, in rural
Georgia, has no African-Americans in the cast nor is
slavery ever mentioned. Drango was the first movie
produced by Jeff Chandler' production company, Earlmar
Productions. Chandler was the star.
Nine months after General
Sherman's march through Georgia his drunken soldiers
plundered the small town of Kennesaw Pass, and many
locals still harbor a great hatred for the Union
Clint Drango (Jeff Chandler), a man harboring a desire
to make amends for his war crimes during that raid, is
assigned to be the military governor of the town and
Capt. Marc Banning (John Lupton) is his aide. Though the reasonable major
promises Judge Allen (Donald Crisp), the town's elder
statesman, he will be fair and wants only to rebuild
the town, he's greeted with opposition and hatred
alike by both the town leaders and ordinary citizens.
Union sympathizer Henry Calder (Morris Ankrum), a native resident who was against the
Confederate succession from the Union, begs the major
to take him to nearby Fort Dalton for protection, as
Henry killed a man in self-defense when attacked by a
rebel mob for his Union beliefs. The major, determined
to restore law and order in town, refuses and orders a
jury trial in town. Instead vigilante justice is
taken, as the judge's crazed son, Clay Allen (Ron
Howard, son of British actor Leslie), a Klu Klux Klan type of dissident, visualizes that
he will lead the south to rise again and forms a
secret group of Confederate guerrilla fighters who
take the prisoner from his Union jailer and lynch him.
Henry's distraught daughter Kate (Joanne Dru) blames the major for her
dad's death. Meanwhile Clay's wealthy Southern belle
plantation owner girlfriend, Shelby Ransom (Julie
London, in a non-singing role), provides Clay's men
with shelter in her mansion and financial backing.
Things hit a boiling point in the climax, as one of
the leading town citizens comes to his senses at last
and prevents a bloodbath by resorting to carry out a
very difficult action to restore peace.
James Wong Howe's stunning black-and-white photography (filmed on location at Greenwood Plantation, a Louisiana estate), gives the somber film the grim look it feeds off. Though uneven, it's still watchable and offers more substance than your average Western. Elmer Bernstein wrote the popular twangy pop title song for the movie, with lyrics by Alan Alch and is sung by cowboy actor Rex Allen.
REVIEWED ON 7/23/2013 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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