The Bounty Hunter (1954)
“When the law put up the money The Bounty Hunter put on his guns!”
Director: Andre de Toth
Cast: Randolph Scott, Dolores Dorn, Marie Windsor
Synopsis: A year after a violent train robbery the Pinkerton detective agency hires a bounty hunter to find the three remaining killers.
Did you know that Randolph Scott made only 28 movies in the 1950s? I know — it seems like he made a lot more. It seems like he made hundreds, all of them Westerns, all of them entertaining but completely interchangeable. Only the leading ladies and the bad guys changed. In The Bounty Hunter, Dolores Dorn is his love interest. At twenty years old, she was 36 years younger than Scott and that’s just plain wrong. It’s like going out with your granddad’s best mate…
Scott plays Jim Kipp, the eponymous bounty hunter who drops his more manly and reassuring alias of Jim Collins when his cover is blown while hunting for three villains who robbed a train. Kipp is so good at his job that the Pinkerton Agency hires him to find the villains when their own agents draw a blank, and he accepts the job even though the trail is a year old, and the identities of the villains are unknown. Pretty soon he’s figured out that the three fugitives from justice are residing in the town of Twin Forks, and masquerading as respectable citizens. His first port of call upon arriving in the town is to question the town doctor (Harry Antrim) about whether he tended to the wound of an injured man (one of the robbers was shot in the leg) a year before. The Doc says no, but he looks a little shifty when he does so and Kipp’s too perceptive to miss those giveaway sideways glances and hesitant pauses. He perhaps gives the good doctor an easier ride than he otherwise would have done because of his attractive young daughter, Julie (Dorn).
The story provides plenty of suspects for us to ponder over. Ernest Borgnine plays a surly hotel owner with a gimpy leg; Robert Keys is a shady card dealer in the local saloon who’s married to Alice (Marie Windsor), who isn’t slow in coming on to Kipp. The bounty hunter questions them all, and it isn’t long before he’s locking horns with the town sheriff (Howard Petrie), who doesn’t take kindly to strangers upsetting his townsfolk. The script throws us a few red herrings, and the identities of the bad guys are never particularly obvious.
The Bounty Hunter provides the kind of solid entertainment one would expect from a mid-1950s Randolph Scott Western. There’s nothing unique or spectacular about it, but there’s something reassuringly comfortable about the familiarity of its format. Even though he was closing in on his sixties, Scott still made an admirably dependable hero, striding across dusty streets with his gun belt slung low over his hips, and never wavering from a rigid moral code that saw his career, like this movie, follow a path that was neither spectacular or unique.
(Reviewed 29th June 2013)