Overblown, overlong, and overelaborated, this 1953 George Stevens western stars Alan Ladd as an ex-gunfighter who is pressed into defending a family of homesteaders against an evil rancher and his sadistic top gun (Jack Palance). Stevens's images substitute expansiveness for grandeur and long dissolves (some of the longest on record) for mythic awareness, although Palance is superbly evil and Ladd smilingly mysterious. Here, as too often in his career, Stevens is aiming to have the last word on a genre: everything aims for “classic” status, and everything falters in a mire of artsiness and obtrusive technique. 118 min.
By Dave Kehr