Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

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.

   Albuquerque is an eminently watchable Western film starring Randolph Scott. Adapted to the big screen from a novel by Luke Short, Dead Freight for Piute, the film is compelling, albeit not particularly sophisticated, story about a family feud, mining, and freighting in pre-statehood New Mexico.

   There’s just enough of everything one would expect from a late 1940s Western: a hero in Scott, a goofy sidekick in George “Gabby” Hayes, and a villainess-turned-heroine in the beautiful Barbara Britton. Add in a semi-realistic setting, a budding romance or two, and a memorable, well-choreographed and surprisingly brutal fist fight between Scott and Lon Chaney Jr.’s character and you’ve got yourself a significantly better than average Western.

   The plot revolves around Scott in his portrayal of Cole Armin, who relocates to Albuquerque from Texas to work for his uncle, John Armin (a rather unforgettable villain as portrayed by George Cleveland), in the family freighting business. Turns out Cole’s uncle is crooked and is working to put the local competition, run by brother and sister, Ted and Celia Wallace, out of business. Did I mention the local lawman is on the take as well?

   Cole’s a good guy and he’s got a good sidekick in Juke (Hayes), so naturally he tells his uncle off and goes to work for the Wallaces in their fledgling freighting business.

   As one might suspect, this turn of events doesn’t please John Armin all that much, so he has his henchman, Steve Murkil, portrayed by an exceptionally well cast, black-hatted, Lon Chaney Jr., cigarette constantly dangling from his mouth, and a recent hire, Letty Tyler (Britton) to plot and to scheme against Cole and the Wallaces.

   All of this culminates in the aforementioned fight between Cole Armin and Steve Murkil, a harrowing horse and wagon ride down a mountaintop, and an abbreviated final showdown on the streets of Albuquerque. The good guys win, of course. This was a 1948 Western, not a 1968 one, so there’s really no surprises here.

   It is clear from watching Albuquerque is that Scott was beginning to outgrow films like these. No surprise, then, then within a decade, he’d be working with directors such as André de Toth and Budd Boetticher in more, shall we say, serious and engaging Western films.

   Still, Albuquerque is not without its charms. Cleveland and Chaney make a good pair of villains that you’re happy to both watch to see what they’ll do next and to root against. Still, when it’s all said and done, sometimes it’s still nice to see the good guy win the fight and save the day. That’s Albuquerque for you.

Editorial Comment:   For my own take on this film, check out this post from about three years ago.