Directed by Lewis Collins
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Written by Sid Theil and Milton Raison
Photographed by Ernest Miller, ASC
Film Editor: Sam Fields, ACE
Music by Raoul Kraushaar
CAST: Wild Bill Elliott (Mace Corbin), Robert Lowry (Clyde Moss), Emmett Lynn (Grimer), George Wallace (Mead), Buss Henry (Charlie), Stanley Price (Van), Rick Vallin (Slim), William Fawcett (Hector), James Seay (John Kroger), Tom Monroe (Jake), Barbara Allen (Jenny Moss), Ray Walker (Col. Peterson).
Hauling unstable dynamite (that’s turned to nitroglycerine) is a surprisingly common plot device. There’s Wages Of Fear (1953), of course, and Sorcerer (1977), one of my all-time favorite films. There’s a B-movie version, Violent Road (1958), that replaces nitro with rocket fuel, even an episode of Little House On The Prairie. In The Homesteaders (1953), one of William Elliott’s late-period Westerns from Allied Artists, Wild Bill gets his shot at transporting the temperamental stuff from Point A to Point B in one piece. To complicate matters, his crew is made up of men just released from an Army jail and the route runs right through Indian territory.
For my money, you can’t beat Elliott in this period. From his two-gun rig to his pipe to his off-the-rack Levi’s, there’s a coolness about him that really carries these films. And he certainly carries this one. The script isn’t as tight as some of the others, borrowing some of its structure from the first film in the series, The Longhorn (1950). Lewis Collins’ direction isn’t as assured as usual — and the pacing, typically so lean and efficient, seems a bit off. None of this is really a complaint, just an observation, and all of these films are highly recommended. Just as it was dying, the B Series Western hit a real peak.
The supporting cast, however, is right on the mark. Emmett Lynn is perfect as the grizzled old-timer who helps Elliott guide the wagons to their destination. He keeps the character just grounded enough. George Wallace, who’d been Commando Cody in Republic’s Radar Men From The Moon the year before, is sufficiently hateful as one of the prisoners-turned-trail hands. And James Seay is fine as the crook who wants Elliott’s dynamite for his own purposes.
Warner Archive’s Wild Bill Elliott Western Double Feature gives us The Homesteaders paired with Fargo (1952). The transfer is strong, with just a hint of dirt and dust. (I like a little of that every so often.) Let’s hope we see further sets in the near future (with the last few titles in their proper 1.85). They call these DVDs on-demand, so let’s demand ’em!