Jeff Arnold’s West

The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans

The Plunderers (AA, 1960)

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A good little psychowestern
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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 black & white film, and some might think that was sad. But actually, it was rather a good film.

 

Allied Artists, which had grown out of low-budget Monogram, produced a plethora of mid- and occasionally even big-budget movies. The Mirisch family, Walter in particular were pretty well in control and they had ambitions to make A-pictures. The $3m-budget William Wyler-directed color picture Friendly Persuasion in 1956, for example, starred Gary Cooper and was nominated for six Academy awards including Best Picture. But they also continued with more ‘humble’ modest-budget black & whiters, and The Plunderers was one.
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Nice little Western
 
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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 very 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 really good in Westerns. He rode superbly in The Unforgiven, I noticed, and I guess he didn’t learn that in Brooklyn.
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Bad guy Saxon gets scratched
 
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Prematurely gray Jeff was always good in our noble genre. He was noted for his Indians, of course. He seemed to alternate between being Cochise and an Army officer. In The Plunderers he is ex-Captain Christy, Civil War vet with only one working arm.
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One-amed vet takes on the bully
 
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The story is a rather Firecreeky/Day of the Outlaw 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 big- and small-screen oater. 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.
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The four punks
 
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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 Mr 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.
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Jay C Flippen is the elderly sheriff
 
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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.

 

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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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