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Monday, 24 September 2012

Food for western nerds - Stranger on the Run

This 1967 TV movie was directed by Don Siegal and first shown by NBC on Halloween night of the same year - it boasts an impressive cast - Henry Fonda, Dan Duryea, Sol Mineo and Ann Baxter, but despite such a strong cast and seasoned director it comes across as a Bad Day at Black Rock wannabe.

Still it's not exactly a bad movie, but more a mediocre one. Still I was pleased to see it released as part of Optimum's Western Classics. I'd never seen the film before, indeed I'd never heard of it, and being a western nerd of long standing, I found it an enjoyable ninety minutes.

In the film, alcoholic Chamberlain (Henry Fonda) comes into a railroad town enquiring about a woman. When she is found dead Sheriff McKay (Michael Parks) at the suggestion of his friend Hotchkiss (Dan Duryea) organises a human hunting party giving the stranger one hour head start to reach the border before setting his men after him. Chamberlain comes across a homesteader (Anne Baxter) and they start to develop a connection but this is quickly cut short when the posse catch up.

The film doesn't really get away from it's TV movie status, and is tame by the standards of most westerns of the period. Fonda gives a good enough performance but comes nowhere near his best work in the genre - the following year he would make Once upon a time in the West for Sergio Leone - but he still provides enough gravitas as the alcoholic drifter who strikes up a relationship with Ann Baxter's character. The film does come alive for the climax which is excellently done and quite exciting.

I picked up this movie for less than three pounds, and at such a price I would consider it to be great value for money. After all it's a western and stars Henry Fonda so that's enough to be going along with.

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