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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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.
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.
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...
This film has fallen into the public domain so the market is flooded with inferior transfers but the Roan DVD is a very nice and colorful transfer.