The only bad thing I can say about Allan Dwan’s Silver Lode (1954) is I wish he’d made 20 more pictures just like it.
Of course, given the people involved in it, none of that should be a big surprise. Directed by Allan Dwan. Shot by John Alton. Produced by Benedict Bogeaus. With a cast that includes John Payne, Lizabeth Scott, Dan Duryea, Harry Carey, Jr., Alan Hale, Jr., Stuart Whitman, Delores Moran and Morris Ankrum. Not bad, huh?
In 1954, the Western was proving to be a good place to stick a little pro-communist or anti-HUAC sentiment. But unlike High Noon (1952) or Johnny Guitar (1954), Silver Lode is surprisingly blatant about it. It was written by Karen DeWolf, who’d eventually be blacklisted.
For starters, Duryea’s crooked Marshall is named McCarty. He rides into town with an arrest warrant for Dan Ballard (John Payne). The charge is murder. Over the next 70-something minutes, we watch Payne try to prove his innocence, as the citizenry of Silver Lode goes from Payne’s friends and supporters to a bloodthirsty mob. Even his fiancée (Scott) has her doubts about him — on their wedding day. It’s a picture that never lets up for a second, showing Dwan’s absolute mastery of pacing. And it’s filled with amazing shots and sequences, obviously developed for budget reasons, that illustrate the inverse relationship that can exist between money and creativity.
A remastered DVD just came out from VCI Entertainment. And while it’s not the gorgeous, sparkly thing we’d all hope for, it’s a definite improvement over the previous edition. Better color. Less dust. Nice audio. I’m completely happy with it, glad that VCI thought enough of the film to revisit it. Highly, highly recommended.
Two other Dwan/Payne pictures — Tennessee’s Partner (1955), a Western costarring Ronald Reagan, and Slightly Scarlet (1956), a rare color film noir — are also worth seeking out. Both of these pictures were in SuperScope.