Monday, March 19, 2012


Opening with scenes of such wicked and sinful behavior as beatings and shootings, the first several minutes of Hellfire are shown through vivid red flames that surround the action on screen and highlight the B-movie nature of the film.  Shot in something called Trucolor in 1949, the colors have now faded and the movie would benefit from being remastered as the plot, while melodramatic in places, rises above its origins and holds the viewer’s interest for all its ninety minutes.

Hellfire stars Marie Windsor (Helen Archer in High, Lonesome Country) as Doll Brown, an outlaw on a quest, whom we only meet about thirteen minutes into the movie.  It first focuses on a cardsharp, whom we come to find out is named Zebediah Smith, played by William Elliott.  Zeb is also on a mission and when he encounters Doll, they end up riding together as he tries to help her. 

A young-looking Forrest Tucker (Deputy Harker Wilkins in the Pilot) plays Bucky McLean, a marshal who is friends with Zeb and is on the trail of Doll.  Paul Fix (Tom Hansen in The Day They Hanged Kid Curry, Clarence Bowles in Night of the Red Dog, and Bronc in Only Three to a Bed) has a small role as one of a trio of mean brothers out to get Doll.

Additional connections to ASJ abound: There is an interesting discussion about faith, reminding me of Heyes’ line in The Man Who Broke the Bank at Red Gap where he tells Kid, “You gotta put a little more faith in your fellow man.”  Doll’s cynical response: “Faith—you can have it!”  Doll Brown sings in a saloon; however, she is rather more successful at getting the patrons to give her money than Michelle Monet was in Journey from San Juan, and her songs, “Shoofly” and “Bringing in the Sheaves” were a lot more enjoyable.  Zeb preaches to uncaring cowboys and at first is just as unsuccessful as Sister Grace was in Six Strangers at Apache Springs in getting them to contribute to the Lord but at the end of Hellfire, despite his lack of fire-and-brimstone-sounding sermons, he manages to persuade a few people to donate to his cause.

Filmed partially in Sedona, Arizona, I recognized one location shot right away.  Although the angle is slightly different, it's very interesting to see that not much has changed in what the scenery looks like between 1949, when this movie was filmed, and 2011, when I was there.  The top photo at the right is a screenshot from Hellfire and underneath is the photo I took sixty-one years later.

The ending of Hellfire is surprisingly suspenseful and even sad.  The acting is good and the plot, while overwrought at times, contains excellent banter between the major characters.  All in all, this is a movie well worth watching.