Saturday, February 4, 2023

The Nevadan (1950)

The Nevadan is a 1950 western and it stars Randolph Scott which is usually enough reason in itself to watch a movie.

It starts in great style, with a lot of information conveyed to the viewer very economically. We know that Tom Tanner (Forrest Tucker) was involved in a big gold robbery, we know he had the gold but when he was arrested there was no sign of any gold at all. It’s a safe bet he stashed it away somewhere safe. Tanner is on his way to stand trial for the robbery when he escapes.

He makes his escape successfully but he’s followed by a rather odd character. Andrew Barclay (Randolph Scott) is dressed in big city clothes and looks just like a city boy who wouldn’t last five minutes in the Wild West. We very quickly realise that looks are deceptive. There’s a lot more to this guy than meets the eye.

And now Tanner has robbed a bank, but all he took was a piece of paper. We figure that paper is the key to the location of the loot.

Barclay follows Tanner to the town of Twin Forks. Twin Forks is owned lock, stock and barrel by Edward Galt (played by George Macready in inimitable sinister style). Galt is just too rich to be an honest man.

Barclay has already encountered Galt’s daughter Karen (Dorothy Malone). Karen runs a ranch for her father. She’s pretty but high-spirited.

Galt knows about the gold and he wants it. He isn’t sure about this Barclay character but he figures Barclay must be after the gold as well.

Tanner is set up by Galt and that gives Barclay the chance to force him into a partnership. They’ll split the money. But they’ll have to get to the gold before Galt does.

It’s an uneasy partnership. The two men don’t trust each other.

I like movies that have thematic complexity and moral ambiguity and interesting characters with depth to them but I’m also quite OK with movies that just offer pure entertainment. The Nevadan falls into the pure entertainment category but it has a few problems.

The major problem is the hackneyed storyline. You can see every plot twist coming up a mile away. The big plot twist is revealed too early but that doesn’t matter because it was totally predictable right from the start. There’s not a great deal of genuine suspense because it’s obvious that this is a movie that is not going to take any risks.

The characters are thin to say the least.

The cast is good. People like Randolph Scott, Dorothy Malone and George Macready are too good to give bad performances but the script gives them very little to work with and they’re not given any opportunities to stretch their performances in interesting ways.

On the plus side the pacing is excellent, that opening sequence is impressive and the action climax is handled pretty well.

It looks great, with some lovely location shooting. It was shot in the Academy ratio and in Cinecolor.

Umbrella’s DVD release in their excellent Six Shooter Classics series is barebones but offers a very good transfer. And it’s pleasingly inexpensive. This is not a movie that you’d bother to buy on Blu-Ray and in any case it hasn’t been released in that format.

This is not a terrible movie. It’s well made and it’s a harmless time-waster but it just doesn’t offer up anything to distinguish it from dozens of by-the-numbers B-westerns.

Hardcore Randolph Scott fans will want to see The Nevadan. Apart from that, if you don’t mind undemanding westerns and you can pick up the DVD cheap it’s probably worth a look.

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