Fonda's and Widmark's characters evolve intriguingly; Blaisdell affords Western aficionados early hints of Fonda's badman Frank in Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West, while Widmark's Gannon reforms, becomes town deputy, and has to go up against not only his old cronies but the hired marshal. Sad to say, despite its three strong leads and a script full of shootings, sadism, and no end of betrayals, the movie keeps bogging down from too much undigested backstory, too much talk, and Edward Dmytryk's flatfooted direction. Even the redoubtable cinematographer Joe MacDonald, who so stunningly shot John Ford's Earp-in-Tombstone classic My Darling Clementine 13 years earlier, disappoints with bland, featureless lighting better suited to a TV show. Speaking of which, future Star Trekker DeForest Kelley plays the only other McQuown rider with a conscience. --Richard T. Jameson
I'm not sure as to why "Warlock" has been relatively ignored over the years, though I think the film is derivative of other films. I think the generic Hollywood backlots where "Warlock" was undoubtedly filmed certainly detract from its overall allure. But simply put, "Warlock" fell through the cracks, and it's a film deserving of reexamination.
Part "High Noon," part "Shane," part "The Searchers," "Warlock" tells the tale of a town victimized by crime. They hire a gunfighter in the form of Henry Fonda, who arrives with a crippled sidekick (Anthony Quinn) in tow. Fonda's character becomes a semi-celebrity, granted carte blanche as he calmly strolls the streets adorned in shining pistols and dark suits. The cantankerous Quinn, lugging around a shotgun, watches Fonda's back while sipping champagne and taking care of the finances.
But the town (named Warlock) is anything but a simple job. A former love of Quinn's (Dorothy Malone) is a resident, and he wants her back. Richard Widmark also resides here, and he's none too happy about the hiring of the gunfighters, sensing the community should stand up for itself. A young woman (Dolores Michaels) also catches Fonda's eye, and for the first time he begins to wonder about settling down. All of these emotional dramas play out, having tragic circumstances.Read more ›
"I come here as your salvation ,at a very high wage.I establish law and order,ride roughshod over offenders.At first ,you're pleased because there's a good deal less trouble.Then a strange thing happens -you begin to feel I'm too powerful and you begin to fear me.Not me but what I am.When that happens we shall have had full satisfaction from each other."
The prediction is spot on .The very success of Blaisdell in sending McQuon packing the first time prompts the threat of massive reprisals and the town backs away from supporting him.