Sunday, April 27, 2014

More Dead Than Alive

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.


Hal said...

About that plane crash that killed Sparr and badly injured cinematographer Gerald Finnerman (many STAR TREK episodes): they were scouting locations in Colorado for BARQUERO, which Sparr was originally slated to direct, with George Schenck also co-writing the screenplay.

Finnerman survived, and went on to do the cinematography for the film. As you know, Gordon Douglas was hired to direct BARQUERO.

Grant said...

I can't help thinking that Clint Walker would've made a good Peplum actor, partly for his build and partly for that likeable "big lug" kind of personality that you mention. It's a little surprising that he didn't become one at all (that I know of), considering all the American actors who did.