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(Review originally written at 3 August 2007)

This is a real western, with all of the needed ingredients in it but added to that are several Michael Curtiz elements, that make the movie entertaining and even somewhat adventurous, though its obviously not your average normal Errol Flynn/Michael Curtiz swashbuckling type of movie.

Westerns from the 30's and '40's were still much different than the later spaghetti-westerns. They were made more entertaining and had a completely different style. Most '40's westerns are even known to have a film-noir kind of atmosphere and feeling all over it. And despite being also always formulaic they yet always felt like something new and original. This movie also feels totally fresh, even though it features all of the formulaic elements, such as a saloon-fight, cattle-driving, card-playing, a hero who becomes sheriff, scruffy looking villains and stuff like that. The movie itself is extremely black and white and moralistic, in which bad is extremely bad and good is extremely good. If this movie was being made in the '60's or '70's, people would had uses laughed it off probably.

For the first 50 minutes absolutely nothing notable happens in the movie. It's not that the movie is boring to watch or without pace but it just aren't the most interesting and compelling 50 minutes of cinema. However when the movie starts to take form and Errol Flynn gets his sheriff-badge, the movie becomes interesting and also totally likable to watch. The movie gets even more pace and the action starts to hit the screen. It's the last hour of the movie that makes you realize that this is a real Michael Curtiz movie you're watching! Some of his trademark directing elements start to appear, such as the fantastic use of shadows!

Errol Flynn looks surprisingly in his element in the western genre. The role is more demanding than his usual swashbuckling type of role and he already sort of shows in this movie that he also knew how to act more seriously. He certainly doesn't look silly with a cowboy hat on! But yet he's above all of course still an hero in this movie, who does everything right, everyone respects and admire and whose clothes never get dirty. What I always like about Olivia de Havilland in her early movies is that despite being always the dame in distress, she yet is a strong and independent character. The love story (yet again) between the two doesn't feel like its slowing done the movie or distracts from the main-plot. It's well done and makes sure that it's never featured too prominently into the movie but it also at the same time doesn't make a redundant impression.

The movie itself is good and big looking. They obviously had some money for making this movie. It's shot in color, which provides the movie with some nice looking images. It also definitely makes sure that this movie doesn't feel as much outdated as with many other '30's and '40's, black & white westerns, is the case. The movie has some nice action moments but you shouldn't watch this movie expecting big and spectacular action. It's more a movie that relies on its script and the actors playing in it. The musical score by Max Steiner is also quite good. It's a well made and constructed movie, that I feel, deserves some more recognition.

It's not Michael Curtiz' only directed western but it's definitely his best known and most appreciated one. He made a total of 10 westerns in his career, of which 2 more with Errol Flynn starring in it, 3 more with Olivia de Havilland and even 1 with John Wayne in it!

A good and quality movie, that's very well worth watching, even if you're not familiar with the work of Errol Flynn or Michael Curtiz or are not at home in the '30's/'40's western type of movie.

8/10

About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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