The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Monday, December 31, 2012

Ride to Hangman's Tree

When I think of Jack Lord, I think of one thing; Lord as Steve McGarrett on CBS' Hawaii Five-O. The cop drama ran for 12 years, and Lord became forever associated with the part. He nonetheless had many other parts, including key roles in Dr. No and Man of the West. There were some stinkers in the group too, like 1967's Ride to Hangman's Tree.

After a botched robbery and narrowly escaping a lynch mob, outlaws Guy Russell (Lord), Matt Stone (James Farentino) and Nevada Jones (Don Galloway) go their separate ways. Matt heads for California while Guy and Nevada stick together, riding into Texas to continue their outlaw ways. Two years pass as Matt creates a name for himself, albeit a hidden one. Working with an inside source, Matt robs Wells Fargo stagecoaches as the Black Bandit. His identity is hidden though as he creates a new life for himself. Things seem rosy until Guy and Nevada show up and threaten to spoil the secret unless they're allowed in for a cut. As if that wasn't fun enough, Guy and Matt are fighting over a traveling singer, Lizzie Malone (Melodie Johnson).

Remakes can be tolerable when done correctly, right? Sure, why not? This western from director Alan Rafkin is a remake of another American western, 1948's Black Bart. A remake is one thing though, and an exact copy another thing. This is one of the laziest efforts I've ever seen, and it's made worse by the fact that 'Ride' was made some 19 years later. Already a B-movie on a limited scale, 'Ride' just splices footage from the 1948 version into the 1967 version. The 19-year difference rears its head there. Grainy footage doesn't translate well to the less grainy footage in 1967, and it stands out like a sore thumb. Money-saving effort, maybe, but that's not all. The producers can't even splice it accurately. We see the 1948 footage, the splice, and the 1967 footage doesn't even look the same. At one point, characters are wearing completely different clothes from scene to scene. Smooth, huh?

More than just the general laziness and cheapness in the moviemaking process, 'Ride' just isn't a very good movie. In just 90 minutes, it manages to cover a lot of ground, and none of it very well. The 'Ride' referred to in the title is covered in the first 15 minutes, and then it's off to California for the Gold Rush: Part 2. At no point does it really no where it's going or even what story it is telling. We're talking outlaws betraying each other, corrupt businessmen working both sides, a love triangle that goes nowhere, and an ending that tops everything in terms of laziness. My theory? It looks like 'Ride' simply ran out of money and decided to wrap things up as tidy as possible. The end result is less than impressive.

But as a fan of both westerns and Jack Lord, I stuck with this one. In a sea of mediocrity, Lord stands out from the rest. He manages to rise above the rather dull story, having some fun with the part of likable outlaw Guy Russell. Always looking out for himself -- but with a smile on his face -- he's a likable quasi-bad guy. So if there's a positive, it comes from the outlaw trio. Bad script though it may be, Lord, Farentino and Galloway show off an easy-going, likable chemistry of three outlaws who have ridden together for quite awhile. Lord's Guy and Farentino's Matt are always fighting, always trying to top each other while Galloway is the goofy third wheel, always ready with a cheesy one-liner to lighten the mood or rescue his partners as needed.

The rest of the cast is straightforward and unspectacular. Playing the love interest, Melodie Johnson gets to sing (badly), dance (badly) and be seductive (not well). It is 1967 though, and we get some "risque" scenes; Melodie swimming naked, changing with her bare shoulders exposed (GASP!), and dancing and singing in skimpy outfits. Richard Anderson plays the Wells Fargo man tasked with finding the Black Bandit with Ed Peck as Sheriff Stewart, the clueless peace officer. I can't really recommend this one. There's just not enough positive going on to give it even a slight recommendation. If you're going to watch, I'll say this. It's bad, but in an entertaining bad way. See how much worse it gets by the finale. You won't thank me.

Ride to Hangman's Tree (1967): * 1/2 /****

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