Movie Review: Riding Shotgun (1954)
“He held the town at bay … to save it!”
Riding Shotgun (1954)
Director: Andre De Toth
Cast: Randolph Scott, Wayne Morris, Joan Weldon
Synopsis: A stagecoach guard is mistaken for an outlaw when he tries to warn townspeople of an imminent raid.
Larry DeLong (Randolph Scott – Roberta, The Bounty Hunter) is a man on a mission to bring to justice Dan Marady (James Millican – High Noon, Red Sundown) and his band of outlaws (who include a young Charles Bronson – then Buchinsky – amongst their number). So determined is he that he’s riding shotgun on the stagecoach hoping Marady will strike. Marady’s just as obsessed with his pursuer and, with an ease that makes you wonder whether ol’ Randy isn’t starting to slip, tricks our hero into a trap. Left to die by Marady’s men, DeLong manages to avoid shooting himself in the back of the head while escaping and returns to warn the local townsfolk only to find that they suspect him of being one of the gang, and of trying to throw them off the trail of his mates.
As with most of Scott’s films, Riding Shotgun is a reasonably entertaining Western shot on a modest budget, although perhaps enhanced a touch by Andre De Toth’s direction. The story’s a little silly at times, with villains who take the time to explain to their victim exactly what it is they plan to do after he is dead so that, when he defies death – as Randy invariably did back then – he knows exactly what he has to do to foil their plot. The difference with this one is that he’s largely impotent against the suspicion and mistrust of the well-meaning townsfolk, and spends much of the time unsuccessfully attempting to convince them that the bad guys are coming back into town to knock off the casino now that all the town’s able-bodied men have formed a posse to chase a phantom gang of stagecoach robbers.
The film is reminiscent of High Noon in a way, although on an obviously much smaller scale, in that it pits a single man against an entire town. But in this case, the single man is a victim of mistrust and rumour, and his every move, no matter how innocent or well-meaning, is repeatedly misconstrued as something altogether more sinister. A better writer would have injected a lot more tension into the plot, but Randy was almost always whiter-than-white in his movies so there’s not a lot of room to explore personality flaws that simply don’t exist, and there’s never any danger that DeLong just might lose his patience.
Riding Shotgun is decent enough then, but not one of Scott’s best.
(Reviewed 5th January 2012)