“The Violent Men” (1955)

Rudolph Maté’s The Violent Men is another one of those hot-house Technicolor Westerns, a boiling Freudian stew of incestuous, power-mad cattle ranchers, all riding this way and that, and fighting and fucking each other to a deafening brass score. With that live-action Huckleberry Hound Glenn Ford as its hero it should’ve been called The Violent Doorknobs, except that Barbara Stanwyck is on hand, playing a cowgirl version of Connie Corleone, and so is her land-grabbing hubby Edward G. Robinson. Robinson has Lord Chatterley’s Disease—that is, he’s paralyzed from the waist down, with symbolic complications—so he tries to pleasure his wife by knocking off small ranchers; but, sorry—she’s busy diddling his brother (Brian Keith), who likes to strut around town showing off his fancy pencil moustache. Ford plays one of the sodbusters, and his I-stick-my-neck-out-for-nobody routine lasts a seeming eternity, but with about 40 minutes left in the picture he finally has his Billy Jack moment and starts giving back to the bad guys. The last half hour cartwheels from one showy climax to another: a smartly executed ambush, the fiery end of a magnificent ranch-house, a no-guff gunfight that settles things for good. (There’s also a grand moment where Stanwyck, her plans having come to seeming fruition, rubs her success in the face of her one female rival. Let’s just say it’s the wrong way to go.) The Violent Men is a little too stodgy for a little too long to rank it with The Furies, Pursued or Gunman’s Walk, but its scenery, tough action, and fancy lassoing place it far above its celebrated cousin Duel in the Sun. It’s also 45 minutes shorter.

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