6 September 2014

DVD Review - Man In The Shadow (1957)



Genre:
Western, Drama
Distributor:
101 Films
Rating: PG
Running Time:
86 Minutes
director:
Jack Arnold
Cast:
Jeff Chandler, Orson Welles, Colleen Miller
Buy:Man in the Shadow (Great Western Collection) [DVD]

Man in the Shadow is one of those westerns made in the late 40s and throughout the 50s that were in reality just film noirs with western elements. The most famous example of this is the classic High Noon, but there were dozens of them. It’s an often forgotten sub-genre that deserves to be revaluated one day.

Orson Welles plays the ranch owner, Virgil Renchler, who basically runs the town of Spurline. His power over the city comes under threat when a young Mexican worker at his ranch is beaten to death. Ben Sadler (Jeff Chandler) plays the local Sheriff who decides to investigate the case. He faces strong opposition from the town’s folks and, of course, Renchler himself and his henchmen will do anything in their power to keep control of the town.

Orson Welles’ involvement with the film is its most notable feature. He agreed to star in it after he made a deal to direct one of his masterpieces, Touch of Evil. During the ‘50s he did many supporting roles in films, his best performance out of these was probably Compulsion. He did then mainly for the money, but despite the financial incentive he did try to pick films that reflected his own political views and morals, and this was no exception.

The film is a fascinating left-leaning western, which deals with the abuse of power and money along with racism towards migrant workers. It’s a somewhat daring film for 1957 that is full of ahead-of-their-time ideas. The film moves at a ridiculously fast pace in just 76 minutes: it’s a total B-Movie in the best possible way. The film was directed by B-Movie legend Jack Arnold, who is best known for The Creature from the Black Lagoon but also directed such cult classics as Tarantula, The Incredible Shrinking Man, High School Confidential and later on Boss Nigger.

★★★★

Ian Schultz

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