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UNCONVENTIONAL WESTERN LOOKS THEMATICALLY FORWARD.
on February 24, 2005
This is a restored version of this interesting feature, actually completed in 1957 by Buena Vista (Disney) but canned for two years until Columbia rescued and released it, supposedly based upon an historic incident, and there is a good deal to appreciate here, in particular excellent camerawork under the aegis of director Ted Tetzlaff, known essentially as a cinematographer. The scenario places the action in the newborn state of California in 1848, relating of a homicide trial with the defendant, played by Dennis Hopper, accused of murdering a local Mexican/Californian during an observed gun duel, after which he is arrested by the local unofficially appointed and unarmed sheriff, portrayed by 18 year Patrick Wayne. One of the better of a blessedly rare genre, The Didactic Western, YOUNG LAND's primary motif becomes a question as to whether the United States system of justice will serve up fair verdicts for non-English speaking citizens, with the efforts of an imported State judge (Dan O'Herlihy) to organize a proper trial inside a sheep barn being particularly engrossing as the judge is not accustomed to such rude courtroom surroundings. Thanks to a rather large budget, art director Jack Okey creates a Mexican village including a plaza, cantina, jail, and other buildings, and Tetzlaff, favouring long shots shows the players in full along with the location settings, all used to good advantage in glorious Technicolor through strong performances by Hopper, O'Herlihy, Ben Stroud, and Ken Curtis as a fugitive converted into a deputy.