Monday, April 26, 2010

The Secret of Convict Lake(1951)

The Secret of Convict Lake (1951). Black-and-white western film. Director: Michael Gordon Produced: Frank P. Rosenberg and music by Sol Kaplan. The film was a critical and commercial success for Ford and Tierney.

Unusual Western with a wonderful atmosphere with the black-and-white cinematography of the snowy setting. A group of five escaped convicts led by Glenn Ford and Zachary Scott, travel with the law not far behind, through the mountains during a snow storm. The convicts find a small town populated only with women, who have learned to defend themselves from outsiders.. The women agree to let the convicts stay in town, under armed guard, until the storm is over and then they must leave. The men agree but the trouble begins when they learn that one of the convicts may have left a lot of money in the area. The women guard the men at gun point and wait for the town's men to return. The barn is accidentally set on fire and the men jump in and help put out the fire, which breaks down the barrier if only for a few short moments. Canfield finds Marcia, where she pleads with him not to kill Rudy because he has been so kind to her. Canfield confesses that he did kill Morgan,(the real embezzler who he took the rap for)in self-defense, he did not steal his money or kill him in cold blood, as Rudy had testified. Canfield then wonders if Marcia is marrying Rudy out of gratitude rather than love, and unable to deny their attraction, they kiss. Marcia then asks Canfield not to kill Rudy, for her sake as well as his, but Canfield believes that it is too late.

The film tells a fictional history of the real-life location, Convict Lake.

Two other important female roles are those of Ann Dvorak as Tierney's prospective sister-in-law and Ethel Barrymore as, the matriarch of the settlement.

The finale is wonderful, the posse arriving on the scene just as the townsfolk are holding services over five graves... are they all the fugitives ?

I thought the film was very well-acted. Also I thought a very under-appreciated film, which reminded me of the western classics: THE OX-BOW INCIDENT (1943) and YELLOW SKY (1948).

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