|SOUTH OF ST. LOUIS (director: Ray Enright; screenwriters: Zachary Gold/James R. Webb; cinematographer: Karl Freund; editor: Clarence Kolsten; music: Max Steiner; cast: Joel McCrea (Kip Davis), Alexis Smith (Rouge de Lisle), Zachary Scott (Charlie Burns), Dorothy Malone (Deborah Miller), Douglas Kennedy (Lee Price), Alan Hale (Jake Evarts), Victor Jory (Luke Cottrell), Bob Steele (Slim Hansen), Art Smith (Bronco), Monte Blue (Captain Jeffery), Nacho Galindo (Manuel), Paul Maxey (Papa Brugnon); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Milton Sperling; Warner Brothers; 1949)|
misfire despite a fine cast."
by Dennis Schwartz
Enright ("China Clipper"/"Swing Your
Lady"/"The Spoilers") directs in a workmanlike way
this western misfire despite a fine cast and good
photography in lush Technicolor. It's weakly scripted
by Zachary Gold and James R. Webb. The
characters are all thinly drawn, the story is
contrived and the execution is stilted. One of its
ridiculous conceits is that its three male stars all
wear bells on their spurs.
the onset of the Civil War, sneering bad dude Luke Cottrell (Victor Jory) and his guerrilla raiders
plunder Southerners south of St. Louis, Missouri in
the name of the Union army. In Edenton, Texas, Cottrell
burns down the Three Bell Ranch belonging to Kip Davis (Joel McCrea) and his partners, Charlie
Lee Price (Douglas
three partners seek vengeance on Cottrell by tracking
him down in the border town of Brownsville, where the
Union headquarters is located. Nice girl wannabe
rancher Deborah (Dorothy Malone) is disappointed Kip
leaves her in the lurch to get revenge before their
In Brownsville, Kip whips
Cottrell in a fistfight in the local saloon owned by
the partners' friend Jake (Alan Hale), and they chase him out
of Texas. Lee then opts to join the Confederate army,
while Kip gets recruited by Southern saloon singer Rouge (Alexis Smith) to be a gun-runner smuggling guns for the
Confederacy from Matamoros, Mexico for big boss Papa Brugnon (Paul Maxey). Charlie soon joins the
Kip is disillusioned with
his actions and Charlie's increased lust for money.
He's driven to drink after being betrayed by one of
his gunmen, who is secretly working with Cottrell.
When Kip loses Deborah to ex-partner Lee, he takes up
with Rouge and tells her he wants to go back to
After the war, the
mercenary Charlie wants to continue smuggling and
finds he must eliminate Lee, now a Texas Ranger, to
keep his lucrative operation going. Deb rides to
Mexico and asks Kip to help Lee. Heart of gold barroom
gal Rouge urges Kip to help because it's the right
thing to do. When Charlie reconsiders and decides to
join his partners again, the slimy betraying gunman he
hired, Slim (Bob Steele), who was secretly working for
gunrunner Cottrell, is not happy that Charlie is
leaving and plugs him before he can join his partners.
The muddled story, with plenty of action, left no impression on me, though McCrea as usual gives a solid professional performance.
REVIEWED ON 9/21/2013 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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