Directed by Thomas Carr
Produced by Walter M. Mirisch
Screenplay by Martin M. Goldsmith and John McGreevey
Screen story by Martin M. Goldsmith
Based on the novel by Wayne D. Overholser
Director of Photography: Wilfrid M. Cline
Music by Gerard Fried
CAST: Audie Murphy (Matt Brown), Terry Moore (Janet Calvert), John Dehner (Chip Donahue), James Best (Sam Mullen), Rita Lynn (Hortensia), Denver Pyle (Preacher Harrison), Ann Doran (Charlotte ‘Ma’ Calvert).
For Memorial Day, it made sense to focus on Audie Murphy. So it seemed like a good time to take a look at the DVD of Cast A Long Shadow (1959).
Producer Walter Mirisch: “Audie Murphy had made a long series of successful Western pictures for Universal-International, and Cast A Long Shadow was made to fit into the mold of those films. It was intended to be a program picture, not terribly expensive, and was shot in black-in-white.”
In an arrangement similar to the deal Mirisch made with Joel McCrea, Audie was given a percentage. Murphy was not happy when he found out the picture wasn’t to be in color. (By the way, this film was sandwiched between two of Murphy’s best: No Name On The Bullet (1959) and The Unforgiven (1960).
Murphy is Matt Brown, a bitter young man who inherits a sprawling ranch from the man he believes is his father. His windfall comes with a challenge — in order to clear up some old debt, he has to get his herd to market in just a few days. Naturally, there are some guys who want to prevent Murphy from getting his cattle in on time.
Joining Audie Murphy are Terry Moore as the sweethheart he left behind, John Dehner as one of the few people on Murphy’s side and Denver Pyle as a preacher. James Best is one of Murphy’s rivals, scheming to get Murphy’s ranch.
Mirisch: “It was directed by Tom Carr, who had worked with me at Allied Artists and had directed The Tall Stranger (1957) with Joel McCrea. The screenplay was by Martin Goldsmith, who had written Fort Massacre (1958), and John McGreevey did a rewrite on Goldsmith’s script… Richard Heermance edited Cast A Long Shadow, as he had Man Of The West (1958).”
Cast A Long Shadow was shot by Wilfrid M. Cline, who’d just finished one of my favorite films, William Castle’s The Tingler (1959). And it was scored by Gerard Fried, whose credits include Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing (1956).
With so many pros working on it, it’s a shame Cast A Long Shadow isn’t better than it is. Sometimes, a cast and crew can rise above a meager budget through ingenuity and determination. Other times, they can’t. This is one of the latter times. You’re constantly reminded that this is a low-budget movie. Stock footage abounds in the cattle drive scenes, with long shots of thousands of head of cattle cut in with tighter shots of Murphy, Dehner and a couple cows. What’s more, Fried’s score is simply over the top — way too dramatic for this modest film. And Murphy’s character is hard to pull for.
But for those of us with a soft spot for these things, these criticisms are not meant to prevent you from adding this one to your collection. Not at all. A Murphy picture is always worth the time, and the DVD from Timeless Media Group is lovely — and you can find it for as little as $5. The 1.85 aspect ratio is correct, the sound has plenty of punch, the picture on the whole is sharp and clear, and the contrast ranges from perfect in one scene, and too dark and a bit flat in the next. I have a feeling that comes from the original elements — that’s what happens when you make a movie on the quick and the cheap.