The Robin Hood of El Dorado
Time Out saysA Western of some reputation, largely undeserved. Based on the Walter Noble Burns biography of Joaquin Murrieta, set in California in 1848, it deals with the racial tensions in the newly-ceded territory, exacerbated by the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill. Baxter (uncomfortably cast) plays Murrieta, a Mexican farmer who believes in peaceful co-existence until his wife (Margo) is raped and killed by riff-raff American prospectors; outlawed after exacting revenge, he continues to wage a guerrilla war for justice, realising too late that he has become little better than the villainous bandit Three-Fingered Jack (Naish) with whom he joins forces. Though fuelled by an admirable anger at racist barbarities, the film is sunk by poor performances (Naish excepted) and a below-par script which indulges endless montage sequences (gold rush, wanted posters, fiestas, etc) or sententious intertitles in the silent movie manner ('Where men and women lived for the moment's happiness - with danger and death ever the next day's promise'). Wellman and cameraman Chester Lyons at least contrive a pleasant, soberly muted visual sheen.