Saturday, February 6, 2010

Rage at Dawn

This 1955 film purports to tell the story of the Reno Brothers, the first outlaw gang to rob trains in America, starting in 1866. Besides doing train robberies, the Reno Gang robs county treasury offices and pays off corrupt politicians and lawmen. The movie stars Randolph Scott as an undercover agent with the Peterson National Detective Agency, clearly a stand-in for the Pinkertons, and Forrest Tucker as Frank Reno, leader of the Reno Gang.

After doing some research, it seems that Rage at Dawn adheres broadly to historical fact but does take many liberties and also leaves out a lot of detail. Then again, at only 87 minutes, this is a feature film, not a documentary.

It was great to see Forrest Tucker in the role of a bad guy! He was much thinner than the character of Harker Wilkins (from the Pilot) in Rage at Dawn and by listening carefully, I could still recognize his voice. Randolph Scott, of course, played the good guy, though he pretended to be a bad guy so he could infiltrate the Reno Gang. He appears about half an hour into the film, after the audience has seen the Reno Gang in action and knows they are not pretty good bad men--they are just bad men, with Frank Reno being a cold-hearted killer.

There's a scene where a bartender keeps wiping a glass over and over as he talks to someone, reminding me of Sister Grace in Six Strangers at Apache Springs. In another scene, Frank Reno gives a Kid Curry glare to the county prosecutor, who's on the take--that was fun to see. A description of an outlaw was given at one point (it was of Scott's character) and one of the Reno Brothers says it could fit anyone--just like the descriptions of Heyes and Curry on their wanted posters.

The love story in this movie contrasted nicely with the action scenes. Many of the events in Rage at Dawn took place at night and it was often hard to make out what was happening. Not only that but the print I watched was very scratchy; there was lots of dust on it. The shootout towards the end of the movie was difficult to follow, due to all the actors resembling each other. However, the scene in the jail at the end of Rage at Dawn was very effective. I won't give away the ending by revealing what happened, but I will say it explains the meaning of the title very well.