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.