A rare role in a western for Vincent Price, who shot WITCHFINDER GENERAL and THE OBLONG BOX around the same time. CHEYENNE star Clint Walker takes top billing though as the same genial oaf he usually played. This one is Cain, who once was a steely-eyed killer with twelve notches on his Colt .45, but it’s hard to see it in Walker’s soft-spoken performance.
Granted, MORE DEAD THAN ALIVE picks up Cain eighteen years later after a long prison stint. Unable to find a job, he hooks up as a sideshow attraction with a traveling Wild West show operated by Dan Ruffalo (Price), despite his pledge never to touch a gun again.
After the violent prison break that opens the picture, not much happens for a long time. Cain meanders with Ruffalo’s show for awhile, where he butts heads with jealous young Billy (folk singer Paul Hampton, a little hammy), Ruffalo’s hot-headed former star, and he meets cute with artist Monica (Anne Francis), who invites Cain to give up trick-shooting and raise cattle on her land.
Will you care about any of this? Not likely. Sure, there is novelty in seeing Price do something a bit different, and the M rating allows the actors to get squibbed up for the shootouts. But the script by George Schenck (still producing and writing NCIS episodes!) just isn’t interesting, and the late television director Robert Sparr (with eleven CHEYENNE episodes under his belt) hasn’t enough style to compete with the Italian westerns that were changing the genre.
Add to those deficits the disappointing ending and the awful music composed by Philip Springer, and you get a film that matches its title. Locations include Vasquez Rocks (Sparr can’t hide that two different sets were built there) and Bronson Canyon. The busy Sparr, who directed only two other features, died in a plane crash in 1969.