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Vengeance Valley

Burt Lancaster , Robert Walker , Richard Thorpe    Unrated   DVD
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 35.68
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The charms of DVD sometimes passeth understanding. Vengeance Valley is an 83-minute B Western directed (barely) by the dullest of MGM hacks, Richard Thorpe, and based on one of the genre's hoariest formulas--the bad natural son (Robert Walker), the good foster son (Burt Lancaster), and the range empire they respectively imperil and rescue. Everyone on board was marking time: Walker, who otherwise spent 1951 playing Bruno Anthony in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, and who would be dead within the year; Lancaster, whose glum performance hints at neither the gusto of his early-'50s swashbucklers nor the fact that he would soon be collecting Oscar nominations; Joanne Dru (playing Walker's recent bride), who only a year earlier was working for John Ford; and screenwriter Irving Ravetch, who would draw a much more auspicious ranch-land assignment a decade later with Hud (1963). No, we can't make exalted claims for Vengeance Valley--but that's just the point: this is an absolutely typical slice of moviegoing life in 1951, and watching this DVD is as uncanny as a trip in a time machine. The aura is perfected by the true three-strip Technicolor print, not a latterday Eastmancolor approximation of the real thing. Throw in a supporting cast of such sagebrush perennials as John Ireland, Will Wright, Glenn Strange, Jim Hayward, and TV's Wyatt Earp-to-be, Hugh O'Brian, and you've got a quintessential Saturday at the Bijou. Now if only the great color films of the period could all look this good.... -- Richard T. Jameson

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3.0 out of 5 stars Sturdy Western April 10 2001
Format:VHS Tape
This is a sturdy western featuring beautiful color photography, and an interesting character study. Burt Lancaster plays a stolid, depedable foster son who reluctantly has to face down his reckless foster brother played by Robert Walker. Walker and Lancaster play off each other well, their naturally opposing acting styles heightning the conflict between these two. Unfortunately, Robert Walker, who made quite an impression in his short film career -- especially in Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" -- would be dead shortly after this film was released. A sad footnote to an overlooked but interesting film.
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1.0 out of 5 stars OK Western, poor quality tape Feb. 23 2004
Format:VHS Tape
I purchased Front Row Entertainment's VHS version of "Vengeance Valley" and was bitterly disappointed. The video quality is poor and the sound track is no better. The story, from what I could make of it, is humdrum. If you're a Lancaster fan, however, the movie is worth having in your collection. And if you're a fan of wasting 20 bucks on a poor quality video, this is a tape for you!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Title and Some Good Performances Nov. 2 2006
By Only-A-Child - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
"Vengeance Valley" (1951) is not just a great title for a western, but a well-made, intelligent feature that should please Burt Lancaster and Robert Walker fans. A cattle baron (Ray Collins) takes in an orphaned boy (Owen Daybright) and raises him. His own son (Lee Strobie) is about the same age. Although Lee resents Owen they generally get along and share a lot of coming of age adventures on the ranch. But as they mature Lee's (Robert Walker) resentment causes him to become a slacker and the classic prodigal son. After a long absence he returns with a wife, appears to have cleaned up his act, and reconciles with his father.

But Lee's past includes a girl named Lily that he got pregnant. Owen covers for him, but this causes Lee to resent his stepbrother even more. When he suspects that his father's ranch and his new wife are slipping away from him, he sets up Owen to be killed by Lily's two brothers. Although this prodigal son-Cain and Abel stuff is hardly original, the two stars are excellent in their respective parts. Lancaster reins in his excesses and gives a nice controlled performance, with his suppressed energy just visible enough to give Owen a nice dimensionality.

Walker in convincing as a two-faced villain, still motivated by childhood jealousy but able to conceal it from everyone but the audience. Walker is relatively forgotten today, but was the 1940's version of James Dean; although his looks and style are more like a young Robert Vaughn.

When not occupied with its melodramatic story, "Vengeance Valley" has the look of an extremely well-produced documentary, going into great detail about the process of a spring roundup and providing a lot of very scenic backgrounds. A ranch hand named Hewie (Carleton Carpenter) provides an informative voice-over. The film features some great cattle scenes, a lot of good riding sequences, and a couple well staged fights. Watch for an early appearance by young Hugh O'Brian-just a few years away from starring in television's "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp".

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Cast in an Average Western April 29 2001
By Mr Peter G George - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Vengeance Valley is an average Western. Its best feature is a remarkably strong cast. This alone means that it ought not to be classified as a B film, for second features could not afford so many familiar faces, nor could they afford the fine location shooting which is to be found in Vengeance Valley. The cast perform quite well. Robert Walker always makes a better villain than a good guy. He portrays both weakness and malevolence in a performance which bears comparison with his more celebrated role in Strangers on a Train. It is always a pleasure to watch Burt Lancaster, but his acting lacks the authority which would be present in his later films. I always look out for Joanne Dru films, but this is not one of her best. The feisty and beautiful heroine of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Red River seems to have faded somewhat and it is possible to see in this film the seeds of her decline as a star. She would make no more important films after this.
The story is interesting without being original. Walker and his foster brother Lancaster fight it out over Dru and Cattle. Strangely the `vengeance' of the film's title does not refer to this aspect of the plot, but to a sub-plot in which two cowboys seek vengeance on the man who made their sister pregnant. Still Vengeance Valley makes a more snappy title than Battling Brothers.
This is by no means a classic Western, but it is perfectly competent. It may not linger long in the memory, but fans of the genre will certainly enjoy the ride while it lasts.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars But there's gonna be peace in the valley tomorrow Dec 26 2005
By Andrew McCaffrey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This is the most difficult kind of a review to write: a movie that had absolutely no impact on the reviewer at all. The film exists. I exist. I experienced the film. After the film, what did I take away from it? Nothing. (I'm forcing myself to write this, because after doing seventeen one dollar DVD reviews, I'm far too anal to simply start skipping titles now.)

VENGEANCE VALLEY (1951) is a movie that I wouldn't expect many people to love, but which I also wouldn't expect many people to hate either. There's just not a lot of substance to get excited one way or the other.

Ray Collins (Boss Jim Gettys in CITIZEN KANE) is the aging owner of a cattle ranch. He has two grown sons: one who was adopted as a child (Burt Lancaster) and one biological son (Robert Walker). The adopted son is this western's good son and the biological is the movie's bad son.

That's basically all you now need to know. The good son moves through the picture doing good deeds and picking up the pieces left behind by his bad brother who goes around being -- you guessed it -- bad. That sentence summaries about ninety percent of the movie's scenes. There's no questionable morality, no ethical ambiguity, no real reason to think much, give any thought to the character's inner lives or even to think of them as real people at all.

As an aside, there would appear to be the glimmers of a good idea buried deep within the backstory. It's the adopted son who turns out good. Is there some resentment from their shared childhood that turns the biological son into a twisted, petty, immature adult? Ray Collins mentions that he adopted Lancaster partly because he needed help raising Walker. Was it the influence of this boring and disgustingly moral older sibling that turned Walker from the path of nice to the path of naughty? Was Walker damned from birth? Unfortunately, the movie doesn't seem very interested in these questions.

What makes the film even more unlikable is that even within the broad strokes of the good guy vs. bad guy characterizations, the individual people aren't even portrayed in an interesting manner. For instance, given that Robert Walker is an out and out baddie, you'd have hoped that the filmmakers could have made him an interesting villain - a bad guy you could cheer for, or at least sympathize with. But he isn't a powerful and strong evil guy. His bad nature is communicated through him being extraordinarily whiny, sniveling and annoying. Sure, this makes the audience dislike him, but it doesn't make him fun to watch.

The only character I really enjoyed seeing was played by John Ireland. He enters the film initially seeking revenge for his sister (she's impregnated and then abandoned) and later becomes the bad son's hit man. Ireland understands how to create an enjoyable villain. He scowls, growls and grumbles. He also has the advantage of getting the script's best lines: "I'm gonna kill a man before I leave here," he barks at the town's sheriff immediately after getting off the inbound train. ("Anybody special, or will I do?" retorts the sheriff.) This is how to portray a villain with no redeeming characteristics at all. Make him fully bad; don't make him annoying.

(Incidentally, John Ireland is a popular fellow in the Wal*Mart one dollar DVD bin. Without trying or realizing, I've managed to pick up at least three of his films. It's a shame the movies themselves all been pretty lousy, but I've been entertained by Ireland's performances in all three.)

Other than John Ireland, I really can't think of much else to recommend about the film. (The cattle ranching sequences are done well, if you're really into cows.) The only thing I believe I'll remember about this movie is that typing up this review taught me how to spell "vengeance" properly. (Three e's. Who knew?)
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sturdy Western April 10 2001
By Scott O'Reilly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
This is a sturdy western featuring beautiful color photography, and an interesting character study. Burt Lancaster plays a stolid, depedable foster son who reluctantly has to face down his reckless foster brother played by Robert Walker. Walker and Lancaster play off each other well, their naturally opposing acting styles heightning the conflict between these two. Unfortunately, Robert Walker, who made quite an impression in his short film career -- especially in Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" -- would be dead shortly after this film was released. A sad footnote to an overlooked but interesting film.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fast riding, shooting and cattle round-ups! Feb. 11 2009
By Roberto Frangie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Robert Walker is a filthy villain, cast as a cattle baron's worthless son... Despite the presence of an attractive wife, the young boy favors an illegitimate son by a local waitress, then changes the blame upon his step-brother...

As the ranch foreman who rallies to Walker's aid, Lancaster makes a strongly convincing hero...

Joanne Dru played leads in a variety of films of the 40s and 50s but is best remembered as the feminine touch in Western Classics as Howard Hawks's "Red River," John Ford's "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," and "Wagon Master."

Set in the range country of the Rockies, Richard Thorpe balances the 'scandalous secret' with fast riding, shooting and cattle round-ups...
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