Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Albuquerque

A few weeks back in a Saturday Morning Western Pulp post, I mentioned Luke Short's novel DEAD FREIGHT FOR PIUTE. The movie version of that book, ALBUQUERQUE starring Randolph Scott, was little seen after its 1948 release, almost to the point that it was considered to be a lost film. It was finally released on DVD, though, in a set with four other Western movies (THE DUEL AT SILVER CREEK, WHISPERING SMITH, and WAR ARROW). Even though I've been a Randolph Scott fan for as far back as I can remember, this is one I'd never seen until now.

Scott plays Cole Armin, a Texan summoned to New Mexico Territory by his uncle, who owns a successful freight business in Albuquerque. The uncle, who is in poor health and confined to a wheelchair, wants Cole to take over the business. Following a stagecoach holdup that opens the movie, Cole arrives in town and quickly discovers that his uncle is, in fact, a crook who wants to wipe out his competition, another freight outfit owned by the beautiful Celia Wallace and her brother Ted. Celia was on the stagecoach that was held up, and none other than Cole's uncle was behind that robbery. (This all becomes obvious very quickly, so I'm not really giving anything away.)

Cole, being an upstanding Texan and Randolph Scott to boot, wants nothing to do with such chicanery, of course, so he goes to work for his uncle's rivals, which naturally leads to a war between the two freight outfits.

ALBUQUERQUE is a movie with a few weaknesses but considerable strengths. To get the flaws out of the way first, there's a fairly major continuity gaffe about halfway through, and a lot of the time the movie is pretty talky and light on action. The villains are a fairly tame bunch, and there's a feeling that Cole could take care of them whenever he wants to. A lengthy fistfight between Scott and Lon Chaney Jr., playing the bad guy's chief henchman, isn't staged well at all. However, there are a few other action scenes that are very well done, including some runaway freight wagons careening down a steep mountain road and an epic shootout at the end. The real strength of the movie is its cast. Scott is always a stalwart cowboy hero, and he's got the number one sidekick of all time with him in this one, Gabby Hayes, playing a driver named Juke. Maybe I'm just showing my age here, but when Gabby Hayes starts ranting, it's always funny to me. Lon Chaney Jr. makes a pretty good henchman, although he doesn't have a lot to do, and the lovely Barbara Britton has a nice juicy role as a femme fatale who's maybe not all bad.

ALBUQUERQUE certainly isn't top-rank Randolph Scott. That tier is reserved for RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY and the Fifties films Scott made with Budd Boetticher. But it's a solid lower-level A Western with a good cast, mostly good production values, a few nice stunts, and a so-so script. I'm glad I watched it, and if you're a Randolph Scott fan, you should check it out. It's a nice enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half. 


pattinase (abbott) said...

I haven't thought about Gabby Hayes in years. He was once such a staple of these films and westerns on TV.

Walker Martin said...

I saw this one recently and enjoyed it. Randolph Scott had that star quality that could carry a mediocre film and make it a success. He's my favorite western actor.