Associate Producer and Director: Joseph Kane
Screen Play by Kenneth Gamet
Story by Thames Williamson and Gerald Geraghty
Director of Photography: Reggie Lanning
Film Editor: Arthur Roberts
Music: Dale Butts
CAST: William Elliott (John Baker/Ringo), Adrian Booth (Livvy Weston), Grant Withers (Wade Proctor), Barbra Fuller (Louise Cole), Noah Beery Jr. (Glenn Larrabee), Jim Davis (Lt. Mike Baker), Bob Steele (Dancer), Douglass Dumbrille (Col. Price), Will Wright (Judge Cole), Roy Barcroft (Fergus), Earle Hodgins (Buck Yallop), Stuart Hamblen (Stuart), Hal Taliaferro (Sgt. Gowdy), Lloyd Ingraham, Marshall Reed, Craig Whitley, Charles Stevens and James Flavin, George Chesebro, Kermit Maynard
It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen a Wild Bill Wednesday. This time around, let’s look at The Savage Horde (1950), Elliott’s next-to-last picture for Republic (coming between Hellfire and The Showdown.)
Elliott is Ringo, a gunslinger wanted for killing a cavalry officer (in self defense, as it turns out). Pursued by the army, he ends up shooting his brother (Jim Davis) — which prompts him to put down his guns and try to begin again under a new name. He winds up in the town of Gunlock, where he becomes involved in a range war (siding with the small ranchers against Grant Withers), reconnects with an old flame (Adrian Booth) and finally faces the charges against him.
The story, cooked up by Thames Williamson and Gerald Geraghty, is impressive in how it’s so seamlessly and solidly built around Elliott’s strengths. His peaceable man/good-badman persona is right at home here — you can easily see this as a William S. Hart picture.
The supporting cast is outstanding: Noah Beery, Jr. as one of the smalltime ranchers; Adrian Booth and Barbra Fuller; Withers as the big, bad cattleman; Will Wright as the local judge tired of being under Withers’ thumb; Bob Steele as Dancer, a sadistic hired gun; and Stuart Hamblyn as a singing ranch hand. Something that really sets The Savage Horde apart is that the bad guys are really bad. Wade Procter (Withers) comes off as a really ruthless cattle baron, willing to do (or have someone else do) whatever is takes to make sure he gets what he wants — sole use of unclaimed rangeland. His cohorts — Bob Steele, Roy Barcroft and Marshall Reed — might be even worse. There’s plenty of menace here, and we all know what a good bad guy can add to a picture like this.
Director and associate producer Joe Kane makes sure we see every cent of Republic’s budget, fairly large by their standards. The action scenes are bigger, the street scenes have more extras — it’s just bigger. Shooting around Sedona and Red Rock Canyon and a 90-minute running time certainly help. This was not only the last picture Elliott would make with Kane, but it was also his last A-scale movie. The Showdown, though excellent, was done for a fraction of The Savage Horde‘s budget. And the Monogram and Allied Artists pictures that Elliott closed out his career with, they were done on the cheap.
Barbra Fuller: “Bill Elliott was wonderful to work with… I don’t think he was much of an actor. He just trained himself and it came off beautifully… He had a calm masculinity, the same as he had in this picture.”
The Savage Horde is one of William Elliott’s best pictures. And like so much of the Republic library, who knows when, or if, it’ll turn up on DVD. If you watch for it, it turns up on the Westerns Channel or on one those streaming things every so often (it’s currently on Amazon Instant).
Source: Wild Bill Elliott: A Complete Filmography by Gene Blottner