Released in 1956, "Jubal" is easily one of the best 50's Westerns and ranks with my all-time favorites.
THE STORY: An injured drifter, Glenn Ford as Jubal Troop, is rescued by ranch-owner Shep (Earnest Borgnine), who ultimately promotes him to foreman of his ranch. This stirs up the envy of ranch-hand Pinky (Rod Steiger) and the desire of Shep's young sexpot wife, Mae (Valerie French), which results in even more hostility from Pinky since he used to enjoy the adulterous attentions of Mae until Jubal came along. The captivating drama is as old as the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife from Genesis 39.
Add to this mix a group of trespassing Mennonites (or perhaps Quakers) who have in their company Naomi (Felicia Farr), a godly woman who attracts Jube's romantic eye, and Reb (Charles Bronson), another drifter who befriends Jube.
WHAT WORKS: For the first hour and ten minutes or so "Jubal" is captivating cinema of the highest order. Shep (Borgnine) is simpleminded and naïve, but likable and full of mirth. Mae (French) is fully clothed at all times, yet somehow oozes sexuality with every simple glance or word, proving that sexiness involves way more than merely showing skin. Naomi (Farr) is an interesting addition to the story: her godly purity attracts Jube just as much as Mae's adulterous tactics turn him off.
Rod Steiger is perfect as the villainous Southerner-turned-Westerner "Pinky." Notice how his hostility toward Jubal is rooted in arrogance, envy and jealousy. Also notice that his strategy to destroy Jubal is deception -- getting others to believe lies. This is how it happens in real life with enemies who hate you for no actual reason. Since there's no grounds for their hatred they resort to lies to destroy your reputation and poison people's minds against you.
Glenn Ford is perfect as the tragedy-laden drifter and how can you go wrong with (a young) Charles Bronson?
A big bonus is that the film was shot on location with the mighty Grand Tetons as a backdrop the entire story. These magnificent Wyoming mountains are nothing short of breathtaking!
The last act is potent in that it reveals the destructive power of a lie, IF it's believed. The only people liars can deceive are simpletons with no discernment; the wise remain skeptical until they observe concrete proof. You'll notice that two of Shep's men refuse to take Pinky as his word because they discern his fleshly motivations, not to mention they likely caught him in lies before.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK: There's too much scampering around in the last act as the plot ties-up loose ends, but it's redeemed by the powerful subtext. Also, the opening credits score is understandably dated but, thankfully, the rest of the score isn't bad for the 50s; in other words, it doesn't prevent you from enjoying the movie.
BOTTOM LINE: Make no mistake, "Jubal" is a powerful psychological Western; there's thankfully no Disney-like unrealistic vibe anywhere to be found, nor lame attempts at humor (like "The Desperadoes"). The film expertly touches on issues of friendship, envy, jealousy, competition, lust, hate, love, hope and the destructive power of a lie.
Let me add that Jubal is a man of fascinating noble character: he amazingly resists the skillful advances of the luscious Mae, like Joseph with Potiphar's wife, obviously because he wanted something better -- a woman he could trust!
"Jubal" is a must for every Western fan's film library.
The film runs 100 minutes.