Sunday, April 4, 2010

Springfield Rifle

During the Civil War, Union soldiers based at Fort Hedley, Colorado (apparently a fictional Army base), keep trying to herd horses East to help the war effort there. But every time the soldiers make an attempt to get the horses safely on their way, they are intercepted by Southern rebels.

Enter Major Lex Kearney, who in his attempt gets caught in an ambush and rather than allow his troops to be massacred by the enemy, which outnumbers him four to one, he orders a retreat. As a result, he is charged with cowardice, court-martialed, and cashiered from the Army. Kearney then throws in with the Southern raiders who are herding the horses south. The rest of Springfield Rifle deals with what Kearney does after leaving the Army and how he manages to live with the disgrace.

The cinematography in this 1952 movie, of snow-clad forests and mountains, is beautiful. There are lots of fistfights and scenes of men shooting at each other, though Springfield rifles aren't actually used until the end of the film and, consequently, the title is rather misleading.

Gary Cooper plays Major Kearney and Alan Hale, Jr. has a small role as a Confederate rebel. It took a while to identify him because he looked so young. But he is definitely the Alan Hale who was the lawyer in The Girl in Boxcar #3. There are many other characters in Springfield Rifle and since they were dressed similarly--as either Union soldiers or Southern sympathizers--it was hard to tell them apart. At 93 minutes, and with no bonus features, this was a pleasant way to spend an evening.