Tuesday, 2 April 2013

No.180 : Westbound

Westbound at the IMDB

Randolph Scott stars in this undemanding 1959 western.

We open to a scrolling paragraph that tells us the Civil War is still being fought and both sides need gold. The Union Army gets its gold from California and the Confederates will try anything to stop it getting to where it’s needed 3000 miles away.

Scott plays a cavalry officer, sorry the best cavalry officer in the whole army. He is called to a meeting with his commanding officer and a man from the government and comes across as a tit as he tries to make some wise remarks. Clearly understanding that the star billing outranks their characters’ positions they take his cheek and offer him a new job into the bargain.

The previously mentioned gold shipments are being increased to one a day and they need Scott to set up the staging posts and hire the drivers . He bitches at first but is soon on the stagecoach to set up his staging post. On the stage he meets a Union soldier who is heading home after losing an arm in the war. He fingers a picture of his bride lovingly but Scott brags that his squeeze is hotter.

They arrive in town to a frosty welcome. Scott’s old rival has married his girl and has a gang of brigands employed to laugh at passers by - including Scott! To make his position clear a gunslinger shoots off Scott’s guns much to the amusement of the entire town - well they don’t have squirrels on skateboards on Youtube yet.

Not to be seen off so easy, Scott sets up his staging post and employs the one armed soldier to run it for him - presumably as he’ll only have one hand in the till. The soldier needs the work as he’s worried about being teased by the nasty men in black shirts who say he’s only half a man - he’ll show them! The bad guys turn up the heat and burn down some staging posts and run off the horses. Can Scott get things set up in time to win the war?

Things get worse before they get better but when a stagecoach is run off the road and down a kill killing all the occupants including a girl in pigtails the townsfolk reassess their loyalties - as does Scott’s old rival. Will their combined efforts see off the black shirted bastards?

At 70 minutes this film barely qualifies as a feature and the running time doesn’t offer much to allow plot twists or character development. Scott is a bit old for the leading man role and God knows why he commands fawning respect and fear wherever he goes considering he’s such a stuffed shirt. The goodies and baddies are clearly flagged with the main villain, Mace, being as despicable as his limited range would allow. He did have a strange stance however and it looked like he was constantly shooting his bullets into the ground - fortunately the stuntmen fell off their horses as required.

For such a straightforward tale of good versus evil I was surprised to see some pretty harsh deaths with the stagecoach crash a real surprise. I also expected the one armed soldier to fare better but at least it left his girl open for Scott’s creepy charms as the credits rolled.

For a 1950’s western this is pretty much what you’d expect but I did it enjoy it and, although broadly drawn, the characters did manage to elicit plenty of boos and hisses from me - even the bad ones!

Best Bit - And the wheel was still spinning…
W Score : 16/23

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