Fox Western Classics: Rawhide

Fox Western Classics

(Fox Home; $19.98) Fox seems to be running far ahead of the pack this year with its John Ford collections, its upcoming Big Trail / John Wayne package and this box set of Westerns: The Gunfighter,  Rawhide and Garden of Evil.

When one considers that all three of these films are being offered on a three-disc DVD package that can be had for about $20, it has to be one of the best deals in the DVD world as we know it.

Rawhide

Years before Henry Hathaway directed True Grit, he helmed Rawhide. The 1951 flick features Tyrone Power and Susan Hayward, who was stepping up to her star status a picture at a time even while Power was stepping down from his (more than a decade had passed since he starred in Fox’s Jesse James (1939) and The Mark of Zorro (1941)).

The two play prisoners of a bad man and his sorry gang, whose members await a stage full of money at a stop along the jackass mail line. (To see a much better variation on this theme, see the Randolph Scott picture The Tall T from 1957.)

Hayward is traveling with her late sister’s daughter, a truly obnoxious toddler, who gets shot at with some frequency. Power has the personality and enthusiasm of a brick. Edgar Buchanan, Power’s mentor, gets taken out far too early in the story, and a lot of the flavor of the film goes with him.

Worst of all, Hugh Marlowe plays the leader of the bad guys. He’s so starved of personality that he almost makes Power look interesting. The only excuses I can imagine for casting Marlowe in a part of this sort is that he was a contract player at Fox and somebody owed him a huge favor.

Meantime Hayward runs around pouting and scowling. Between the bunch of them, you could measure the chemistry in this picture with a thimble.

Even the great character actor George Tobias (Abner Kravitz to most folks) is stuck inside a lousy accent and a small role, and Dean Jagger just stands around whimpering.

The only redeeming elements in this movie are the direction and production values, and the wonderful turn by Jack Elam, who is given a fine, meaty part as a nasty, licentious villain eager to get his grubby meathooks on Ms. Hayward. The goggle-eyed Elam is given a few close-ups that are worth the price of admission.

The DVD has a short on Susan Hayward and another on Lone Pine, California, where this and innumerable other Westerns were shot, as well as a stills gallery and an interactive pressbook.

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