Sunday, July 3, 2011

Wyoming Renegades

For a completely different characterization of Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, watch Wyoming Renegades. In this movie Butch, played by Gene Evans (Phillips in The Men That Corrupted Hadleyburg), is a crude, coarse, murderer, very different from the charming rogue depicted by Paul Newman.  Curry--his first name is never mentioned and the actor who played him is not credited--wears a black eye patch and likes to hurt people; he also likes to take his pleasure by force. Peter Brocco (Mr. Pincus in the Pilot and the judge in The Posse that Wouldn't Quit) also has an uncredited role.

Wyoming Renegades starts off with a series of bank and train robberies, interspersed with pictures of wanted posters of members of the Wild Bunch and posses chasing after them. After the opening credits, the scene shifts to a lone man riding slowly into Broken Bow, Wyoming. He ignores the whispering townsfolk and stops at a boarded-up blacksmith's shop.

He turns out to be Brady Sutton, former member of Butch Cassidy's gang and recently released from prison after serving three years. All he wants now is to make a new start, taking over his father's business as a blacksmith, and marrying Nancy, the daughter of the bank owner who still believes in him. However, the townspeople are suspicious and make it clear they don't want Brady in their midst.

Into this combustible situation comes Charlie Veer, who mysteriously bankrolls Brady and becomes his business partner. Slowly, the business becomes a success. Then one day, when Brady is in the bank, the Sundance Kid enters to size it up for a robbery. He had tried to get Brady to rejoin the gang when he left prison, but Brady beat him up instead. Brady sees Sundance but doesn't think the outlaw saw him; he doesn't realize that Sundance saw him in a mirror. Brady goes to the sheriff and warns him of the impending robbery. Wyoming Renegades shows Brady's uncertain status in the town very nicely: Is he still an outlaw, working for the Cassidy gang, or has he truly changed?

Preparations are made to safeguard the bank's money but the outlaws were also prepared. A gunfight ensues and Brady feels he has no recourse but to run because he thinks the town will blame him for the robbery. Charlie goes with him. They search for the Wild Bunch in order to clear Brady's name, find them, and after some tense moments, insinuate themselves into the gang. The rest of Wyoming Renegades deals with Brady and Veer trying to stop the Wild Bunch from getting the money they left behind during the bank robbery.

In the second half of Wyoming Renegades, there is a train robbery. As in the Pilot, the passengers are herded off the train. However, there are some major differences: a) The passengers are robbed of their valuables, and b) the car that presumably holds the safe is successfully blown up. Also, one of the railroad employees is shot point blank when he refuses to do something ordered by Butch Cassidy.

The ending of Wyoming Renegades is a complete surprise. This 1954 movie is action-filled, shows the inner conflict of Brady, the ex-convict, very well and, at 75 minutes maintains suspense throughout. But it's a good thing Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were not modeled on Butch and Sundance as portrayed here, since I doubt Alias Smith and Jones would ever have been made if they had been.