"Ride Beyond Vengeance" is more than a typical western. Although produced on a low budget by television producers Mark Goodson And Bill Toddman ("The Price is Right") and featuring several names mostly familiar to TV audiences, it has a dynamic, if pessimistic script more concerned with character development than standard action--not that the film lacks action or violence.
Cowboy Jonas Trapp (Chuck Connors of "Rifleman" fame) falls in love with the beautiful Jessie (Kathryn Hays), very appealing in her first film, a wealthy girl out of his humble class. Against the wishes of her snobbish aunt (Ruth Warrick), she marries him, later faking a pregnancy to win her aunt's consent. But Jonas tires of living off of his wife's family, and eventually deserts her to become a buffalo hunter. 11 years later, with his self-made fortune, he sets out to return home, only to be set upon by three sadistic marauders, Michael Rennie, Bill Bixby and Claude Akins, who steal his money and leave him for dead. Rescued by a farmer (Paul Fix, Connors' "Rifleman" co-star) who nurses him back to health, Jonas becomes consumed by the desire for revenge. As fate would have it, all three men live close to Jonas' former home. Matters quickly get worse when Jonas reunites with his wife, only to discover that she is now engaged to Rennie.
Made on a three week schedule on an obvious sound-stage, "Ride Beyond Vengeance" succeeds in transcending it's shortcomings by the powerful acting of a first-rate cast. Connors gives his best performance, and he is well (if briefly) supported by Joan Blondell (as a gossipy townswoman), Gloria Grahame (a cheating wife having an affair with Bixby), Gary Merrill as Jonas' foster father, Frank Gorshin as an arrogant ranch hand, and Buddy Baer as a town bully. Buried way down the cast list is young starlet Marrisa Mathes, who is sympathetic and real as the grieving girlfriend of Bixby who reaches out to Jonas. But, next to Connors, the film belongs to Bixby, as a sadomasochistic dandy. James MaCarthur and Arthur O'Connell appear in a present day prologue to set the scene and narrate the story. The screenplay is based on Al Dewlen's novel, "The Night of the Tiger" and spends considerable time fleshing out the characters. Of course, violence rears it's ugly head here and there, but not so much as to put off the viewer. (It did, however, put off critics when it was released back in 1966) but it went on to garner a massive audience when it had its television premiere. Today, it seems better than it was initially given credit for, and remains well worth seeing. A widescreen DVD release is due out in December. It's about time! [phillindholm]