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  Decision at Sundown The Avengers
Year: 1957
Director: Budd Boetticher
Stars: Randolph Scott, John Carroll, Karen Steele, Valerie French, Noah Beery Jr, John Archer, Andrew Duggan, James Westerfield, John Litel, Ray Teal, Vaughan Taylor, Richard Deacon, H.M. Wynant
Genre: WesternBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Travelling on a stagecoach, Bart Allison (Randolph Scott) sticks his head out of the window along with his pistol and orders the driver to stop. He has no option but to comply and soon they have stopped by the side of the road with Allison standing, brandishing his rifle at them. They wait and wait until it looks as if nobody has heard the gunman's signal of firing off a shot, but then a figure on horseback with another horse following rides up and Allison mounts and disappears into the landscape. He has vengeance on his mind as he and his companion Sam (Noah Beery Jr) head for the nearby town of Sundown - but things won't work out the way he expects...

The third of what are now considered a cult classic series of westerns from director Budd Boetticher and star Scott, it used the script by Charles Lang to examine the theme of revenge, and how it can twist a man's mind out of shape until it consumes them. And at what cost? Allison is one of the most unlikeable heroes of nineteen-fifties westerns whose sheer pigheadedness makes you want to reach into the screen and give him a shake to try and snap him out of his singleminded pursuit of satisfaction - a satisfaction that can only be gained through another man's death.

As it plays out, Boetticher and company hold their cards close to their chest, and even when Allison and the loyal Sam ride into Sundown we're not sure of the reasoning behind their actions. We soon discover that the head of the community, Tate Kimbrough (John Carroll) is getting married today, and the two newcomers in town plan to crash that wedding - not that they knew about it beforehand, but it will be all the more apt if Allison manages to ruin the big day.

Kimbrough is getting wed to local society dame Lucy Summerton (Karen Steele, Mrs Boetticher at the time), and is keen to forge a relationship that gives him further standing in the community, but as we see he's turning away his old girlfriend, Ruby (Valerie French) who is patently far better suited to him and is having her heart broken in the process. Nevertheless, she wants to attend, against Kimbrough's wishes, and she will have an important part to play in the story's unexpected ending.

Gradually we cotton on the the fact that although Kimbrough is a shady character, Allison's method of getting his own back can only result in his own Pyrrhic victory. He ends up losing even more by his actions, with characters pointlessly killed off once he and Sam are laid seige to in the stables, surrounded by Kimbrough's men. At the halfway stage, the resident doctor (John Archer) thinks that violence is the sole manner in which Kimbrough can be deposed, but by the conclusion he has to admit that there must be better ways to go about solving the big problems: When Allison rides away in the final scene, he's a broken man, still angry and made to face up to the fact that his purpose was a hollow one. As usual, the psychology in the Boetticher-Scott westerns was intriguing. Music by Heinz Roemheld.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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