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Epic western, great cast
on December 7, 2008
Director Raoul Walsh made his fair share of epic movies in his time with The Tall Men a welcome addition to the list. After the Civil War, brothers Ben and Clint Allison have drifted west to Montana, making money as highwaymen. The Allisons get lucky when one traveler they're after, Nathan Stark, asks them to join him in driving a herd of cattle north from Texas to beef-starved Montana. So after the long ride to San Antonio, on which Ben saves and starts to fall for a woman, Nella Turner, who survived an Indian attack, the Allisons and Stark head north with a herd of 4,000 cattle, battling Jayhawkers, Indians, and each other all the way. Clocking in at two hours, the movie drags in spots but the pace picks up once the cattle drive starts. It's a beautiful movie filmed in Cinemascope with lots of gorgeous locations from bone-dry deserts to snow-capped mountains. Not a ton of action, but the final battle between Allison's cowboys and a Sioux war party is a good one. Overall, not a great western, but a good one and one worth a watch for sure.
When it comes to westerns, it'd be hard to do better than the three main leads. Clark Gable should have made more westerns judging by his part here as Ben Allison, a tough former Confederate soldier driving a herd of cattle to Montana no matter what or who tries to stop him. Gable's leading lady is the beautiful Jane Russell as Nella Turner, a young woman looking to find the right man with big dreams who likes Allison but can't seem to realize it. A lot of westerns throw in female characters for the heck of it, but Russell's role doesn't feel tacked on, she more than handles her own. Don't be confused though, the movie gives her plenty of scenes in various stages of undress to capitalize on her popularity as a sex symbol. Robert Ryan is also strong as Nathan Stark, the gentlemanly businessman who teams with the Allisons to drive his herd, all the while battling with Ben for the money and the girl. Cameron Mitchell plays Clint, Ben's younger brother who's good with a gun but still growing up. Rounding out the cast is Juan Garcia as Luis, Ben's old friend and right hand man on the trail.
The DVD, part of the Clark Gable Collection, is well worth it if you can track down a copy through a vendor. The widescreen presentation looks great, especially compared to the old pan-n-scan VHS tapes. Special features includes three photo galleries which are pretty extensive, a trailer, and three trailers for other Fox westerns. All in all, an enjoyable western with strong performances from Gable, Russell, and Ryan. Give The Tall Men a try!