Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Escort West

If Last of the Mohicans were transported about one hundred years into the future, it might look like Escort West. This 1959 black and white film stars Victor Mature as Ben Lassiter, an ex-Confederate soldier traveling with his daughter in 1865 who, because his wife/her mother has died, are going to Oregon to live with the girl’s aunt.

At a waystation, they encounter two sisters, who do not get along, and an Army detail that is escorting them to California, where one sister is going to be married. Naturally, the Army soldiers and the sisters, who are from Boston, take an instant dislike to the “rebel,” as they call him.

Several guest stars on ASJ were in Escort West. Noah Beery (the sheriff in Something to Get Hung About) and Slim Pickens (Mike the bartender in Exit from Wickenburg and three sheriffs in The Man Who Murdered Himself, The Day They Hanged Kid Curry, The Strange Fate of Conrad Meyer Zulick) play two of the soldiers. Slim Pickens was easily recognized, although his voice didn’t have as pronounced a twang as it did in ASJ. Noah Beery was also recognizable, albeit not as easily.

X Brands (one of the poker players in The Biggest Game in the West and Roberts in McGuffin) plays a renegade Modoc Indian leader, and underneath all the makeup and a wig, I couldn’t identify him at all. Leo Gordon (Ebenezer in Smiler with a Gun) was also one of the soldiers and I couldn’t identify him, either; additionally, he is credited as one of the three writers of the film.

When Lassiter discovers the women after their party has been attacked by Indians, he ends up taking on the responsibility of escorting the two sisters on their journey. An injured African-American soldier tells them about an Army payroll they were carrying and after locating it, together they all resume their trek west. It was not clear to me why the Army had split up but for some reason they did and Escort West cuts back and forth between Lassiter and his group and the soldiers, who are trapped by the Indians in a canyon.

Many adventures ensue before they all finally reunite. There is lots of action, some suspense, a little romance, and betrayal as the movie reaches its climax. There is also a scene with a rattlesnake, which is even sillier than the scene in High Lonesome Country when Kid wrestles with the cougar. Other than that, at 75 minutes, Escort West was an enjoyable diversion.