ALBUQUERQUE. Paramount Pictures, 1948. Randolph Scott, Barbara Britton, George “Gabby” Hayes, Lon Chaney, Russell Hayden, Catherine Craig, George Cleveland. Based on the novel Dead Freight for Piute, by Luke Short. Director: Ray Enright.

   I don’t know whether the Luck Short novel this above-average technicolor Cinecolor movie is based on takes place in Albuquerque or not, but I suspect it doesn’t, since Piute is in Utah (or California) and therefore not particularly close (as the crow flies) to the titular city in New Mexico using anyone’s map, including Google’s.

   The people who made this movie tried to dress it up a bit. Some of the various background settings appear Spanish in origin, such as one scene in particular that takes place on a Sunday morning with worshipers entering a Spanish chapel in their Sunday best finery. Otherwise the town the story takes place in could have been any other place in the West. They all look alike to me, anyway.

   Randolph Scott has lead billing, and he’s definitely the star. He plays Cole Armin, who comes to town to work for his uncle John (a not so genial George Cleveland), who owns most of the freight contracts in the area, but when Cole discovers how crooked his uncle is, he goes to work for the competition instead, a brother and sister team played by Russell Hayden and Catherine Craig.


   Second-billed Barbara Britton doesn’t show up until at least half the film has gone by, but perhaps she had a good agent to speak up for her. Which is not to say that she doesn’t have an important role. She also comes to town originally to work for John Armin, this time in an undercover capacity; which is to say that her job is to spy on the Wallaces for him.

   With more plot to the tale than is usual – compared, that is, to your typical Rex Allen film, for example – there are a few twists and turns to the plot to come, with the whole story ending with a hair-raising trek down a mountain in a pair of freight wagons in an effort to win a new mining contract.

   Which not so incidentally makes Dead Freight to Piute a better title, if you were to ask me, and yes, I know it’s too late now. But at least maybe the people who made the film did stick to the novel at least a little bit.

   Seeing this movie in color was nice, and Gabby Hayes plays his usual colorful sidekick to the hilt. It’s Randolph Scott who’s the star attraction, though, and he’s given plenty to do to prove it.