Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Violent Men

Although the main characters in The Violent Men are small rancher Mr. Parrish (Glenn Ford) and neighboring cattleman Mr. Wilkison (Edward G. Robinson), this movie could just as aptly be named The Violent Woman.  That would be Barbara Stanwyck who, as Mrs. Wilkison, steals the show.

And Brian Keith plays a love interest!  Jack Kelly (Dr. Chauncey Beauregard in Night of the Red Dog) has a supporting role as a hand on Parrish's ranch and Frank Ferguson (the undertaker Mr. Billings in Bad Night in Big Butte) has an uncredited role; neither actor was recognizable and it was only by reading the credits that I discovered they were in this movie.

The film moves at a slow pace for the first 45 minutes, taking its time to introduce all the characters, but then it picks up speed and does so with a vengeance.  Glenn Ford is the hero but he is very much a milquetoast until one incident forces his hand.

After that, there is plenty of action and the remaining 51 minutes pass quickly.  The main plot of The Violent Men concerns a rich cattleman who’s forcing the smaller ranchers and the farmers out of “his” valley, but a secondary plot involving his wife and her machinations is much more gripping.

Interestingly, this movie is based on a book by Donald Hamilton, who wrote the Matt Helm spy series, and there are traces of that reluctant hero in the character of John Parrish.  This is not Ford’s best work but Stanwyck, although at times veering into caricature, shines.  Robinson does not have as much to do as the other actors in this 1955 film.  The Violent Men is only an adequate B-Western but as a character study in greed, it works very well.