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USA 1956
Directed by
John Sturges
80 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Backlash (1956)

The 1950s were probably mainstream America’s most unreal decade – a time when casting a perfectly groomed Donna Reed as a calculating gold-digger in the Technicolor wastelands of Arizona made sense to an audience for whom Home Beautiful had long since replaced a home on the range.

For the most part John Sturges' range war Western is regulation stuff as Reed teams up with Richard Widmark's Jim Slater, a Texan looking for information about his father, who died along with four others at the hands of an Apache war party in a remote place called Gila Valley. The main drive of the film is provided by their joint search for the sixth man who ran off with $60,000 in gold (which you'd think in those days would have been a pretty heavy load for one dude).

The narrative trundles along with the typical elements of the Western performed by actors who all look they are more accustomed to watering their suburban lawns than a-drinkin’ and a-cussin’, let alone a-whorin'. This includes, rather improbably, Harry Morgan as a bad-ass and William Campbell as a hot-headed wannabe gunslinger. The final section, in which Slater tracks down the killer but with unexpected results has a nice twist and is well-handled by Sturges but the rest of the film is a by-numbers affair, Irving Glassberg’s classy landscape photography notwithstanding.




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