The Ride Back (1957)
“It Rides a Trail NO Western Ever Rode Before!”
Director: Allen H. Miner
Cast: Anthony Quinn, William Conrad, Lita Milan
Synopsis: A troubled sheriff, a failure at everything in his life, tries to redeem himself by extraditing a popular gunfighter from Mexico to stand trial for murder.
The Ride Back is quite a tightly plotted and executed study of two men under psychological stress that belies its truly woeful opening credits tune which hints at something altogether more formulaic. William Conrad — Cannon from the 70s TV series — plays a sheriff who travels into Mexico to arrest fugitive killer Anthony Quinn and take him back to the States to face justice. The offbeat casting of Conrad — who also produced — as the nominal hero of the film hints at the unusual (for its time) story that is to follow.
Conrad’s Sheriff Hamish is not your conventional cinematic lawman in that he is riddled with self-doubt and no small degree of self-loathing, and neither is Quinn’s Bob Kallen the stereotypical bad guy. Although Kallen quickly susses out Hamish’s insecurities he doesn’t really make that much capital out of the knowledge, and the film chooses instead to focus on slowly making it clear that Hamish actually envies his prisoner. Kallen has a beautiful woman so slavishly devoted to him that she follows them across the desert in the hopes of freeing him, while Hamish’s wife hates him. Kallen is tall, rugged, good-looking while Hamish is short, plain and running to fat. Kallen is popular and makes friends easily. Worst of all, Kallen quickly makes a connection with a young girl — orphaned by an Apache attack on her parents — who they encounter on their journey back, but who will have nothing to do with the sheriff.
The Ride Back’s conclusion is fairly predictable, not so much because of any weakness in the story but simply because it’s the only possible outcome if the finale is to remain consistent with what has gone before. Nevertheless, that doesn’t detract from what is an unexpectedly absorbing and intelligent independent movie.
(Reviewed 6th September 2010)