“In the lawless Oregon country of 1842, local magnate Gerald Montgomery decrees that any unattached woman belongs to the first taker. Dan Kirby is lynched, starting a stampede to claim his half-Indian wife Paca. Trouble starts with the local tribe, but worse is in store when Dan’s tough brother Tex rides in. The zeal of Montgomery’s men to protect him from Tex is tempered by their lust for Hannah, who’d be his widow.”
Soooo….this is a weird movie all right. The person set up as the main villain does not have a big showdown with the hero; he’s been absent most of the movie and the person whom the hero does conquer is the guy we have been seen being a despicable lech the entire time. And there is the, extremely weird setup for the plot to begin with.
What sets this movie apart from any exploitation is the fact that all the characters–including the women–actively and intelligently work in their own interests. In both cases (yes, there’s only two women in the movie); their own interests prioritize: staying alive, protecting their loved ones, or avenging their loved ones, as well as human decency.
After the lynching of brother Kirby, Mrs Montgomery/Hannah attempts to get Paca to safety with her tribe. This doesn’t work; Paca is claimed by one of Montgomery’s men. She isn’t happy with the situation, needless to say, but, sticking with the guy who can protect her is the only way to stay alive. She sticks with him, until the time comes when she can safely turn around and–well. Let’s just say it’s not quite a satisfying revenge, because it’s over too quickly.
Mrs Montgomery is the damsel in distress of the movie and as such is actually slightly more annoying than Paca–who is smart enough to know when trouble is up and a) run for the hills, b) yell for help–I kept yelling for her to get a freaking gun of her own. However, she remains calm, ladylike, and resourceful throughout all. You buy her personality and don’t want her to be hurt. She’s a loyal wife who loved (past tense) her husband, and is also semi-aware that the entire situation is his and partly therefore her fault.
Still, Lady, get a freaking gun.
Hannah is lusted after by Evil Old Guy and his son, Evil Lech. She is semi-protected by Gambler, who shows up spontaneously to offer his services. Then Vengeance Gunslinger shows up and refuses to leave. It might have been a good idea to make a break for the hills at any point in time before the four of them started playing cards for her. Instead, she waits until Vengeance point-blank tells her to get on a horse and go…and allows Lech to ride along. Then allows Lech to run her horse off. Not smart.
She does, however, attempt to brain Lech with a candlestick in the final shootout. (A gun would have been more useful, you know…)
The Indians are also given a treatment rather unusual for early westerns. They don’t whoop, they don’t shoot arrows, and they don’t get mowed down by the white men. They react to the murder of one of their own in a measured, reasonable way, and it’s quite satisfying.
The photography and acting is also very good; color is nicely used, scenery is lush, etc. I’m also out of time.
Rating: Four ornamental bull’s heads out of five.