|Jimmy Stewart as bounty hunter Howard Kemp.|
As Mann's Western hero, Stewart is typically flawed, a loner, a man with a hidden past or with something that gnaws at his character. He possesses an obsessive quality to his personality and can be downright mean if he has to. As Howard Kemp, Stewart effectively conveys a wide range of emotions, from raging anger to quiet resignation. Still, deep down, the character retains a moral compass and understands right from wrong. It's a sold performance, enhanced by an interesting script.
Mann packs the film with plenty of action, including the terrific climactic shootout at some raging rapids which required some niffy stunt work. There is also a quick battle with Indians. But the psychological game that Vandergroat is playing on his captives is as fun to watch as these set pieces. He tries to manipulate the men to his advantage, and cares for the girl only so long as she serves a purpose. The script, by Sam Rolfe and Harold Jack Bloom, received an Oscar nomination, a rarity for a Western.
The Rocky Mountains provide a beautiful Technicolor backdrop, a hallmark of any Mann/Stewart Western. William Mellor served as cinematographer on this one. Two years earlier he had won the Oscar for splendid work on A Place in the Sun. If Mann had no favorite cameraman, he at least knew how to pick good ones. He used four different cameramen for the five films with Stewart. Between them they had 26 Oscar nominations and 4 wins.
|Robert Ryan waits in ambush.|
Some viewers may think the ending is too abrupt, but it is within character. Kemp is a man who needs a new beginning. To make one, and to severe himself from the past that drives him, he makes the right decision.
|Robert Ryan tries to outwit his captors.|
- The Furies - 1950
- Winchester '73 - 1950
- Bend in the River - 1952
- The Far Country - 1954
- The Man from Laramie - 1955
- The Tin Star - 1957
- Man of the West - 1958
- Spartacus - 1960 (Fired by Kirk Douglas and replaced by Stanley Kubrick. The salt mine scene is the only remaining contribution by Mann).
- El Cid - 1961
- The Fall of the Roman Empire - 1964