CULPEPPER CATTLE CO.: When an idealistic boy talks his way into becoming a cook's helper on a rugged cattle drive, he finds "cowboyin'" rapidly losing its appeal.
THE PROUD ONES: A Kansas marshal tries to maintain order as the new railroad turns his quiet town into a boomtown.
FORTY GUNS: Barbara Stanwyck (STELLA DALLAS) stars as Jessica Drummond, a rancher who runs her Arizona cattle ranch with an iron hand and a private army of 40 hired guns. The tough-as-nails matriarch has a troublesome brother whom she nonetheless dotes on, and when he shoots the sheriff she comes to his aid, unable to say no. This instigates an all-out war, which is further complicated by the fact that the new Marshall, Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan) falls hard for Jessica, and she returns his feelings. A gem from auteur Samuel Fuller (THE BIG RED ONE) that reads as a noir dressed as a western, the film ingeniously invokes genre tropes to investigate the intricacies of sex and love; its conclusions are less than optimistic, but the film retains a fascinating, almost surreal allure.
BROKEN LANCE: Edward Dmytryk directed this literate Western, a remake of THE HOUSE OF STRANGERS, which is itself loosely based on Shakespeare's KING LEAR. Tyrannical cattle baron Matt Devereaux (Spencer Tracy) has raised his older sons harshly, leaving them neglected and bitter, particularly Ben (Richard Widmark). Matt's youngest son, Joe (Robert Wagner), however, receives the most attention from Matt's wife, a Comanche Indian (Katy Jurado). Joe remains loyal, even taking the rap when the old man gets hauled up on charges of launching a raid on a nearby copper mine. After spending three years in jail, Joe comes home to find his dad dead from a stroke, his mother back with her tribe, and his brothers running the ranch into the ground. Joe, understandably shocked and enraged, then plots his revenge.
The film features a solid script by Richard Murphy and strong supporting performances by Hugh O'Brien, Eduard Franz, Earl Holliman and E.G. Marshall. It's interesting to see Spencer Tracy in such an unsympathetic light as the patriarch; his scenes with Jurado are some of the film's best moments.