A 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.
Cast and crew
|Director:||William A Wellman|
|Screenwriter:||William A Wellman, Melvin Levy, Joseph Calleia|
J Carrol Naish