The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans


A good little psychowestern


 
 
 
Jeff
Chandler’s last Western (he died in 1961 from blood poisoning got in a slipped
disc operation, at the age of only 42) was a minor studio black & white B-movie, and some might think that was sad. But actually, it was rather a good
film.

Allied
Artists produced a plethora of low-budget
B-movies. Probably the studio’s greatest triumph was the Don Siegel-directed Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1956.
1960 was a good year for Allied, with such epics as Sex Kittens Go To College, Bluebeard’s Ten Honeymoons and David and Goliath.

Still,
every now and then they came up with a nice little black & white
psychowestern and The Plunderers was
one.

 
Better than the average Allied picture
 
It
starred Jeff with second-billed John Saxon. Doubtless the two Brooklyn boys
thought that together they would give strength to the film. Eendraght Maeckt Maght,
after all. Saxon (b 1935) had
been good as the half-breed Johnny Portugal in The Unforgiven earlier
the same year, and this time did a Mexican, paying great attention to the
accent. He was to be Mexican again as Chuy with Marlon Brando in The Appaloosa
in 1966 and yet again, with Clint Eastwood, as Luis Chama in Joe Kidd in
1972. He was rather good. He rode superbly in The Unforgiven, I noticed,
and I guess he didn’t learn that in Brooklyn.

 
Bad guy Saxon gets scratched
 
Prematurely gray Jeff was always good in
Westerns. He was noted for his Indians, of course. He was Cochise no fewer than
three times (Broken Arrow, The Battle of Apache Pass, Taza, Son of Cochise)
but he was just as often seen in US Army blues. In The Plunderers he is ex-Captain
Christy, Civil War vet with only one working arm.

 
One-amed vet takes on the bully
 
The
story is a rather Firecreeky plot about bandits
coming to town, holding the place hostage and revealing all sorts of weaknesses
and enmities among the population. The bad guys are really only four loutish
youths, though, not professional bandits at all. More like The Wild One. They are led by Ray Stricklyn (the boy Clint in The Last Wagon and the Young Jesse James immediately before The Plunderers) who is outwardly macho
but inwardly insecure. He has with him a huge bully whom they call Mule (Roger
Torrey in his first Western; he did a lot of TV work afterwards) and a callow
youth named Davy, played by Dee Pollock, only 23 but already a veteran of many
a B and TV Western. But, as Jeff says, the dangerous one is the Mexican. The
Mexican, Rondo (Saxon) repays the compliment by telling his compadres that Capt. Christy is the one
to watch.

 
The four punks
 
There
are some old-faithful character actors. Vaughn Taylor, always there when you
need a pusillanimous townsman, is the general store owner and James Westerfield is the saloon
keeper. You know Vaughn: the hotel manager in Cowboy, Henry Richardson in Warlock,
the banker in The Professionals. You’ll
recognize Westerfield immediately, too: Judge Parker in True Grit, Reverend Howard in The Gunfight at Dodge City, etc. Great to see these faces. And good old Jay C Flippen is
the elderly sheriff who’s not as fast as he was. It’s a pretty nifty supporting
cast.

 
Jay C Flippen is the elderly sheriff
 
It was
directed by Joseph Pevney, only his third Western. He had directed Chandler
five years before in Foxfire. He does
a sound job.

There was
a 1948 The Plunderers, a Republic effort, but that was no
relation and this one is not a remake.

You
could actually do a lot worse, though, than this 1960 movie.


 

2 Responses

  1. I loved Jeff Chandler. For me he was the ultimate he-man. He looks thin and tired in this picture.

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