DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
THE MOONLIGHTER (director: Roy Rowland; screenwriter: Niven Busch/story by Niven Busch cinematographer: Bert Glennon; editor: Terry Morse; music:  Heinz Roemheld; cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Rela), Fred MacMurray (Wes Anderson), Ward Bond (Cole Gardner), William Ching (Tom Anderson), John Dierkes (Sheriff Daws), Morris Ankrum (Alexander Prince), Jack Elam (Slim, Strawboss), Charles Halton (Clemmons Usqubaugh - Undertaker), Norman Leavitt (Tidy), Sam Flint (Mr. Mott, Bank President), Myra Marsh (Mrs. Anderson), Burt Mustin (Turnkey), Myron Healey (Deputy Joe Bayliss), Tom Keene (Sheriff); Runtime: 77; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joseph Bernhard; Warner Brothers; 1953)

 
"A muddled Western, set in the early part of the 20th century, shot unnecessarily in 3-D and in Black-and-White, that's indifferently helmed by Roy Rowland."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A muddled Western, set in the early part of the 20th century, shot unnecessarily in 3-D and in Black-and-White, that's indifferently helmed by Roy Rowland ("Rogue Cop"/"Bugles in the Afternoon"/"The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T"). It brings on an unconvincing romantic triangle involving a moonlighter (nighttime cattle rustler), his ex-flame rancher and the outlaw's wimpy bank teller kid brother. Niven Busch's (Duel in the Sun writer) story and his surprisingly inadequate screenplay leave us with implausible major events, the story petering out from its tedium and an awkwardly tacked-on moral ending. The Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck duo made four films together, including Billy Wilder's great classic film noir Double Indemnity (1944); this unappealing oater was their third. The others were Mitchell Leisen's Titanic story "Remember the Night (1940)" and Douglas Sirk's "There's Always Tomorrow (1956)." Of note, Stanwyck did her own stunts and riding.

Cattle rustler Wes Anderson (Fred MacMurray) is jailed in a dusty frontier town and when the sheriff and his deputy go to chow down for supper, a lynch mob instigated by the Bar X ranch breaks into the jail and mistakenly hangs the jailed hobo Tidy (Norman Leavitt), after the cowardly turnkey (Burt Mustin) deserts his post. Wes escapes and pays for Tidy's funeral by robbing the locals who come for free food at the funeral reception and then gets revenge on the Bar X ringleaders. Returning home to Rio Hondo after five years, Wes discovers his idolizing brother Tom (William Ching) is set to marry his ex-girlfriend rancher Rela (Barbara Stanwyck). At first unwilling to digest the news, he soon calms down and decides to skip town. When Wes' rummy criminal pal, Cole Gardner (Ward Bond), shows up, they scheme to rob the local bank, where Tom worked until recently fired. The confused Tom, thinking Rela wants him to be more a man like his brother, talks his way into a role in the robbery. When the bandits escape with the loot, but Tom is shot dead by the bank president (Sam Flint), Rela gets deputized and goes gunning for Wes.

REVIEWED ON 12/2/2012       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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