Sat 28 Apr 2012
Dawn at Socorro (1954), a thinly-veiled Earp/Clanton drama, covers much of the same ground as OK Corral and Hour of the Gun, with a fraction of the time and pretension. Rory Calhoun is the Doc Holliday figure, Alec Nicol is Johnny Ringo, and Lee Van Cleef is the last surviving Clanton.
There’s a nice bit where Van Cleef arrives at a Swing Station to ambush the stage carrying Calhoun. As the stage draws near, he turns to the Station Man, jacks a round into his Winchester and says something like “My name’s Billy Clanton. Be sure and tell everyone you saw me kill Doc Holliday.”
Footage of Calhoun offing the baddies in this film (Gee, hope I didn’t spoil the suspense!) was later used as flashbacks in Red Sundown (1956), directed by Jack Arnold with his customary flair for violence.
Domino Kid (1957) features Calhoun as the guy out to get the men who killed his parents and looted their ranch while he was off to War. It starts out very fast and interesting, with fine cameos of two of the baddies, played by Roy Barcroft, fatalistically toasting his opponent before the gunfight, and James Griffith, psychotically snarling and justifying his actions as Frontier Law.
This lasts about the first 20 minutes, and then the action just sort of stops. Dead in its tracks. Disappointing, but the first part is still quite nice.
Four Guns to the Border (1954) is a Western Caper film, with Calhoun the head of a gang that includes Jay Silverheels, George Nader, and John McIntire. Their plan is to visit the town that Calhoun was run out of years ago by his erstwhile gunbuddy, the gutless Charles Drake, and rob the bank while everybody’s gathered at the stables watching Calhoun and Drake duke it out.
There’s lots of moody, tenseful waiting around at a Swing Station outside of town, and what looks like a very grim climax indeed — at first.
Calhoun wrote the script for an interesting Western, Shotgun (1955) featuring Sterling Hayden, Zachary Scott and Yvonne De Carlo, but his last good oater was The Gun Hawk, where he’s a wounded, burned-out gunfighter pursued by Sheriff Rod Cameron. In this one he gets the chance to reprise the ending of Four Guns to the Border and bring it to its logical conclusion.
● DAWN AT SOCORRO. Universal International, 1954. Rory Calhoun, Piper Laurie, David Brian, Kathleen Hughes, Alex Nicol, Edgar Buchanan, Mara Corday, James Millican, Lee Van Cleef. Director: George Sherman.
● DOMINO KID. Columbia Pictures (1957). Rory Calhoun, Kristine Miller, Andrew Duggan, Yvette Duguay, Peter Whitney, Roy Barcroft, James Griffith (the latter two uncredited). Director: Ray Nazarro.
● FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER. Universal International, 1954. Rory Calhoun, Colleen Miller, George Nader, Walter Brennan, Nina Foch, John McIntire, Charles Drake, Jay Silverheels, Nestor Paiva. Based on a story by Louis L’Amour. Director: Richard Carlson.
● THE GUN HAWK. Allied Artists, 1963. Rory Calhoun, Rod Cameron, Ruta Lee, Rod Lauren, Morgan Woodward, Robert J. Wilke, John Litel. Director: Edward Ludwig.
NOTE: Dan reviewed The Gun Hawk at much greater length here earlier on this blog. Another Rory Calhoun western recently reviewed by Dan was The Silver Whip. This post is a continuation of that one. You may go back and find it here.