Budd Boetticher is one of those low-budget genre movie directors exalted to auteur status for having a recognizable theme and consistent look. An antagonistic view would be that Boetticher kept making something like the same movie over and over with Randolph Scott as a stiff-necked, laconic, Man of Principal in the Wild West. Though lacking the geniality, ease, and sense of humor of John Wayne in his onscreen old age (which overlapped Scott’s), Scott had some presence.
The Boetticher/Scott(/writer Burt Kennedy) westerns of the 1950s involved a loner with painful memories ensuring the safety of a woman and often in a very uneasy coexistence crossing rugged terrain with one or more outlaws. The movies in this string that I’ve seen that seem to provide some basis for the high regard of American auterists are “Seven Men from Now” (1956) and “The Tall T” (1957 with an especially evil and sadistic villain played by Richard Boone). I was less impressed by the last one “Comanche Station” (1960).
The penultimate one, “Ride Lonesome” (1959) is a bit better IMO, or perhaps it is of more interest for containing the screen debut of James Coburn (who went on to appear in western semi-classics Major Dundee, and A Fistful of Dynamite), Pernell Roberts as the untrustworthy outlaw accompanying Scott (here called Ben Brigade) and a turn as the arch-villain by Lee Van Cleef (the “bad” ‘un in “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”). The blonde, stacked damsel saved from being in distress, Mrs. Lane (Karen Steele, who was married to Boetticher) is notably uninteresting, as is the sniveling outlaw being taken in to be hanged (having a bounty and other rewards for whoever captures him). Even among stock characters, theirs are notably flat. (The only memorable female performance in the Boetticher/Scott series I’ve seen was Maureen O’Sullivan in “The Tall T.”)
It is amusing to see Coburn, who was so often a smartass playing a half-bright flunky (called Wid, not to be confused with wit; Roberts’s character Boone had a near-monopoly on that!).
There is a generic (boring) Indian attack, and it becomes clear that former sheriff, current bountyhunter Brigade is proceeding slowly with his prize, a nasty Billy the Kid type (James Best, before “The Dukes of Hazzard”), so that Billy’s brother Frank (Van Cleef) can catch up. Eventually, the viewer learns what Brigade has against Frank (I’ll just say that Brigade’s reasons are good ones).
The ultimate confrontation did not impress me (visually or in any other way). It seemed perfunctory to me, though what followed was satisfying. The whole movie seems a pale and/or perfunctory return to “7 Men from Now” (which I think the best of the Boetticher/Scott movies) – as does “Comache Station” with its reprise of a stereotyped Indian attack.
The color photography by Charles Lawton Jr. (who also shot the original “3:10 to Yuma,” “The Gene Krupa Story,” etc.) is good, though it is obvious to me that the movie was shot in California, not in New Mexico or Arizona.
The DVD, part of a 5-disc Boetticher set, includes a rhapsodizing introduction b Martin Scorcese and a theatrical trailer. The set also includes (in chronological order of their making) The Tall-T, Decision at Sundown, Buchanan Rides Alone, Comanche Station, and Bruce Ricker’s very interesting documentary “A Man Can Do That.”