So a while back during my 30 Day Challenge one year, I talked about something I had accomplished-my intense thesis paper. The professor had noticed my love of film, and recommended that I choose that for my project and I did. I choose to talk about the Civil Rights era and Western film.
I know, it sounds weird, but it there were actually a lot of Western films that correlated with the changes occurring due to the Civil Rights Movement. It was different, it was ambitious, it would be a perfect change from anything anyone else had done. And it was-all those things but after a lot of serious work and time, and sleepless nights-I did it and it was good. And I won an award.
Afterwards, for another class I decided to stick with the idea-but this time with women in Post WWII Westerns. WWII allowed women more freedoms, as they had to take on previously masculine roles and duties. Westerns became the perfect avenue for this as historically women played a major part in “settling the West,” for example, thousands of women journeyed West under the Homestead Act. I discussed five influential western films that presented strong cowgirl characters and broke away from previous molds: Ramrod (1947), Red River (1948), Montana (1950), Rawhide (1951), and Calamity Jane (1953).
They were all fantastic films, but only two could work for Horrorfest VII: film-noir Ramrod and suspense-thriller Rawhide.
I was having a hard time trying to decide which one to review as I thought two Westerns during Horrorfest VII was a little much. I finally decided on Rawhide as thus far, I have only reviewed one 1950s film while four 1940s film.
Well enough background-let’s move forward. So this film is a remake of a 1930s film Show Them No Mercy. This black and white film stars Tyrone Power as Tom Owens, the son of a stagecoach tycoon, having been not living up to his father’s expectations he sent Tom out West at a stopover station, Rawhide Pass.
A coach comes through with a group of passengers, one being Vinnie Holt (Susan Hayward) and her niece Callie. Vinnie is a singer turned cowgirl, who is taking her niece to be raised by her maternal grandparents as her sister and brother-in-law died in a brawl.
They are going to head out but the calvary arrives with the news that there are escaped convicts after a gold shipment. They are there to escort the stagecoach, but they cannot take Callie as children are not allowed in such dangerous situations. Vinnie stays behind with her niece and upsets Tom’s life.
“Tom Owens: What are you doing?
Vinnie Holt: I’m taking this room.
Tom Owens: I’m sorry, this is mine.
Vinnie Holt: [Authoritatively] Not tonight, it’s not!”
That night Vinnie wants a bath for her and Callie. He’s angry and points out the trough, but Vinnie is harsh and won’t be cowed-getting him to admit where the hot springs are in the area. She doesn’t trust anyone-she’s a woman living in the West, and takes Tom’s gun with her just in case.
Meanwhile, a man comes over on a horse. Tom waits behind, while the other Rawhide worker Sam Todd (Edgar Buchanan) goes to check it out. The man shows a Sheriff badge, but it turns out he is the convict, Rafe Zimmerman (Hugh Marlowe) who was supposed to hang for the murder of his girlfriend and lover. He and his crew of three, all being guys from cells around him, take over the place. They kill Todd, and imprison Tom in his room.
Vinnie and Callie come back, and Vinnie quickly grapples the situation. She tries to hide, but is discovered when Callie cries out, but does manage to hide Tom’s gun before they imprison her too.
They think Vinnie and Callie are Tom’s wife and daughter. They keep them alive to use as collateral in order to ensure that Tom does what they ask. This soon turns into a game of cat and mouse as Tom and Vinnie try to figure a way out of the situation without revealing their plans to the outlaws.
Another coach comes by and Zimmerman pretends to be a sheriff assisting Tom with those convicts on the loose. Tom tries to find a way to slip a note, steal their gun, or get the one hidden under the trough. He and Vinnie also try digging out a hole in the wall of their room in hopes that they can all escape these madmen. But will they be able to make it through the night?
This is a great film you should see for yourself. Susan Hayward is a powerful character. While Hayward’s role of Vinnie is similar to the 1930s Western films as she provides a love interest, and creates a way in which to distinguish which of the outlaws is the true villain; however, she doesn’t allow her gender or temporary motherly duties keep her from her true character; a strong, brave, cowgirl–equal to any man. Throughout the film, Vinnie is also shown to be equal to her male counterpart. Not only does she instruct and command Tom, but will not tolerate anyone trying to take advantage of her as she knows how to survive the West and does not allow anyone to push her around because of her sex.
The film also reverses the damsel in distress cliché that one would expect in a love triangle-themed film. Throughout the movie, Vinnie is constantly harassed and attacked by the convicts, but never saved by anyone. Instead, Vinnie uses her strength, cunning, and resoluteness she needed to survive living in the West to disarm and dress down her opponents, even going as far as physically harming one in order to stop him.
And the end of the film is great. Instead of Vinnie being the damsel in distress in need of a savior, she saves Tom. One of the convicts, Tevis, had disarmed Tom and forced him to lay down on the ground, but before Tevis has a chance to shoot him, Vinnie steps in.
To start Horrorfest VII from the beginning, go to It’s the End of the World: The Birds (1963)
For the previous post, go to Once, There Was Even a Man Who Had Scissors for Hands: Edward Scissorhands (1990)
For more Susan Hayward, go to The Misery That Walks Around On This Pretty, Quiet Night: Deadline at Dawn (1946)
For more Westerns, go to Book Club Picks: Until the Day Breaks