ROUGHSHOD. RKO Radio Pictures, 1949. Robert Sterling, Gloria Grahame, Claude Jarman Jr., John Ireland, Jeff Donnell, Myrna Dell, Martha Hyer, George Cooper, Jeff Corey. Screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring (as Geoffrey Homes) and Hugo Butler. Director: Mark Robson.

   Roughshod is a surprisingly noir western from RKO, the quintessential nor studio, co-written by Geoffrey Homes (Out of the Past) and directed by Val-Lewton-alumnus Mark Robson. Surprising because it sets up a standard White-Hat vs. Black-Hat plot, then pretty much abandons it to dwell of the Pilgrim’s Progress of four Ladies of Easy Virtue reluctantly rescued by absurdly tight-lipped White-Hat Robert Sterling, who is stalking and being stalked by Black-Hat John Ireland.

   Homes does a thoughtful job sketching the trials and tribulations of the euphemistic “Dance Hall Gals” (who include Martha Hyer, Jeff Donnell and the unforgettable Gloria Grahame) as they chase dreams of Love, Lust, Avarice and Respectability, showing sensitivity without straying West of the Pathos, while Robson skillfully sustains tension in the Val Lewton style, with half-seen figures flitting about the night, punctuated by a few very chilling scenes of Ireland prowling about like a monster in a horror flick.

   There is also a dandy run-and-jump gunfight to wrap things up with a satisfying ironic twist that I refuse to divulge.

— Reprinted from A Shropshire Sleuth #44, May 1990.