JOE DAKOTA. Universal-International, 1957. Jock Mahoney, Luana Patten, Charles McGraw, Barbara Lawrence, Claude Akins, Lee Van Cleef, Anthony Caruso, Paul Birch. Screenplay: William Talman and Norman Jolley. Director: Richard Bartlett. Currently streaming on Starz.

   When Jock Mahoney’s character rides into the small western town of Arborville, at first he finds it totally deserted. No one in the street. No one in any of the stores. No one anywhere. Until at last he discovers a girl (Luana Patten) sulkily standing near the general store. That she is not forthcoming as to where all the townspeople are is an understatement. Shrugging, he rides off.


   Whereupon he finds the answer. A short way from town all of the men who live there are drilling an oil well. By hand. The women are sitting in the shade at the equivalent of a picnic table, watching. Jock Mahoney’s character asks if he can watch. After some discussion with the man in charge (Charles McGraw), it is agreed that no harm would be done if he did.

   Pushing the boundaries of the agreement he has just made, Jock Mahoney’s character enters the small shack near where the men are working. This seems to annoy them, and Jock Mahoney’s character winds up in the oil pool next to the drilling site. Covered in black, he unceremoniously leaves. The next we see him, he is taking a bath back in town in their watering trough, with the girl secretly watching.

   As it so happens, Jock Mahoney’s character is looking for an old Indian who calls (or called) himself Joe Dakota. It was his shack there near the oil well, but what he is told is that he sold right to the property just before leaving town.

   If you stop and think about it right about here, you will probably know where the story is going from here, and you’d probably be right. You may even think of another earlier movie with a plot line that would be along the same lines as this one, and you’d be right about that, too.

   It doesn’t mean that this one is not fun to watch, because it is. Nor can it be bad, not with a cast like this, and a storyline that’s clean and efficient and basically well told. Jock Mahoney makes no attempt to overplay his role; quite the opposite. The villain, of course, is Charles McGraw’s character, and Claude Akins and Lee Van Cleef play a pair of local louts for all they’re worth, as only they could.