The Ride Back! (1957)

May 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

It’s hard to imagine a film today that would deign to use an exclamation mark in the title, even The Poseidon Adventure (1972) had to be updated to Poseidon (2006), because there’s something forced and uncool about using the word adventure. Needless to say, The Ride Back is a Western that’s over fifty years old, but it hasn’t dated. As a film, it’s beautifully shot, well acted, well paced and has solid but subtle writing.

William Conrad plays Sheriff Chris Hamish, sent alone to a small town to retrieve Bob Kallen (Anthony Quinn) so he can stand trial. Kallen makes various escape attempts through the harrowing journey back, and it’s slowly revealed that Kallen might not be all that bad, and Hamish, while a decent man, is certainly a flawed one. The dialogue manages to suggest characters that are real simply by making the characters sound reluctant to reveal too much at once. Kallen hands an unloaded gun back to Hamish saying “You’re pretty clever, I’m learning about you,” and there’s a pause before Hamish replies, “Take your time.”  William Conrad hits all the right notes as a man doing his duty and reluctant to reveal why he’s so obstinate about getting Kallen back to stand trial when he has no personal stake in it, and Quinn effortlessly plays the younger and more charming man who’d started a new life away from his troubles.

It might be a little typical that the two men inevitably grow to trust each other a little, but it’s handled quite well, in dialogue that feels real. The Ride Back is a simple Western, and not a terribly celebrated one, as far as I can tell from a search online. A search for the trailer on YouTube gets you some videos of favourite cars from 1957, and I can find personal reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, but not professional ones. Regardless, it’s a worthy film for fans of the genre, or good drama. Oh, and for the record, I love a film that isn’t afraid to put a chipper little exclamation mark at the end of the title.

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