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BLOOD ON THE MOON

USA, 1948 (MIFF 1995, Robert Wise Tribute)

Director: Robert Wise

Robert Wise was winding up his working rela­tionship with Howard Hughes' RKO studio by 1948 when he directed B!ood On The Moon, a film he considered his "first big feature." He took Luke Short's plain-spoken story, Gunman's Choice, and transformed a pulp potboiler into an endur­ing classic Graced with Robert Mitchum in the lead role of fim Garry, the complexities of Blood Oh The Moon depend more on character develop­ment than rawhide cow-punching action and gun­play to propel it. This integral aspect places it in a hybrid genre: the oft alluded to 'noir Western'.

Mitchum is a gunslinger hired to menace a ranch owner by one faction in a range war. Ruth­less rustler Tate Rilling (Robert Preston) hopes spooking his mark will swell both his herd and wallet. When driftin' Jim Garry is smitten by the rancher's daughter (Barbara Bel Geddes}, he switches allegiance to the underdog and squares off against avarice and injustice, further enhanc­ing Mitchum's outsider/hero persona.

Preston (a supremely handsome and charming, if serpentine, villain, already 22 films into his career at 301) explains the twisted rationale behind his seemingly limitless greed, ultimately goading Big Bob into the teeth-gritting, climactic punch-up that Wise took pains to make as authentic as cinematically possible.

Plot is secondary to menacing exchanges of dialogue and threatening, shadowy interiors— the feel that distinguished Wise's work with Orson Welles and RKO-and a fine supporting cast includes wheezin' ol' Mr. Chuck Wagon him­self, Walter Brennan.

Although Wise is on record as disliking the genre, this murky, violent and claustrophobic post-war Western betrays no signs of careless or cursory direction. A fascinating piece offering immense rewards.

See also...

THE HAUNTING

USA/UK, 1963
... ... After seating the ambitious heights of West Side Story (1961) and steering star vehicles like Two For The Seesaw (1962), Robert Wise's 1963 version of Shirley Jackson's novel The Haunting of … More »

THE SET UP

USA, 1949
Director Robert Wise's ninth feature in five years, after a lengthy apprenticeship in the editing department, The Set Up was also his last at RKO. ... The film started life as a poem by Joseph Mancur… More »

WEST SIDE STORY

USA, 1961
... ... "With West Side Story, suddenly i became a musical director." ... ... ... Robert Wise drew upon all his directorial resources in this leap to yet another genre, and with his collaborator, cho… More »

BORN TO KILL

USA, 1947
... ... Intensely cold, blood-curdling and emotionally spare, Born To Kill is knockout noir. A grim and at times complicated picture, it features a youth­ful Lawrence Tierney as a near-robotic pa… More »

THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE

USA, 1944
... ... At the beginning of an era of trashy B-horror and sci-fi, Wise attached himself to sound features with intellectually satisfying metaphoric bases, remarkable visual aesthetics and intrigu­… More »

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