“Gateway To The West … Doorway To Hell!”
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Cast: Joel McCrea, Vera Miles, Lloyd Bridges
Synopsis: Former buffalo hunter and entrepreneur Wyatt Earp arrives in the lawless cattle town of Wichita Kansas.
Joel McCrea made quite a few of these modest B-westerns in the twilight of his career. Most of them are OK, but Witchita is a little better than average, and you can’t help feeling that a more generous budget might have enabled director Jacques Tourneur to invest it with more of an epic feel. 50-year-old McCrea (Foreign Correspondent, Gunsight Ridge) plays Wyatt Earp, who was actually 27 when he became sheriff of Wichita. Not only is McCrea too old for the role, he’s also too old for Vera Miles (A Touch of Larceny, Psycho), his obligatory love interest, who was 27 when she made this. Earp, aided by his brothers and young Bat Masterson (Keith Larsen), does battle with a band of thirsty, sex-starved cattle herders who accidentally kill a five-year-old kid as they’re busy raising hell. The town fathers are all in favour of running them out of town – until they realise that without these rowdy cowboys, the fast-growing town of Wichita could quickly die a death. A solid performance from all involved.
(Reviewed 13th February 2012)