Directed by Paul Landres
Produced by Jerald Zukor
Written by Allan Kaufman and Max Glandbard
Director Of Photography: Floyd Crosby, ASC
Film Editor: Elmo Williams, ACE
Music Composed and Conducted by Irving Gertz
Cast: Dale Robertson (Sheriff Caleb Wells), Brian Keith (Happy Waters), Rosanna Rory (Maria), Dick Kallman (Smiley Andrews), Don Megowan (Walt), Mike Lane (Nels), Buddy Baer (Stan), Charles Fredericks (Deputy Bear), Alexander Lockwood (Bert, the new sheriff)
Paul Landres was one of those journeyman directors who could take practically nothing — an OK script, less than a week and a paltry budget — and put together a solid little movie. He worked mainly in TV, with a feature from time to time. Inspired by the upcoming DVD and Blu-ray release of The Return Of Dracula (1958) from Olive Films, I’ve been revisiting some of Landres’ features from the late 1950s.
Hell Canyon Outlaws (1957), known in the UK as The Tall Trouble, was an independent picture from Jerold Zukor Productions, filmed at the Corriganville Ranch. Republic released it. I think it’s one of Landres’ best.
Four outlaws head to a small town of Goldridge to raise hell and eventually rob the bank. They take over the saloon and hotel, steal a horse, size up the bank and rough up the guy at the livery stable — just for starters. If all this isn’t bad enough, the town council has just fired the sheriff, Caleb Wells (Dale Robertson), and his deputy, Bear (Charles Fredericks). The new sheriff, well, he’s outta town. Goldridge is in a tight spot.
Dale Robertson is terrific in this. You just know he’s going to be pushed to his breaking point, it’s just a matter of when. That tension, as the town is trashed and Robertson does the slow burn, is what drives Hell Canyon Outlaws. Landres builds the suspense perfectly — with the help of Elmo Williams, who edited High Noon (1952) — to a very satisfying last reel. This and Fred F. Sears’ Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956) would make a great double bill.
Brian Keith is great in one of those somewhat-likable dirtbag roles he excelled at (remember Fort Dobbs?). Keith would’ve made an ideal foil to Randolph Scott in one of the Boetticher pictures.
Rossana Rory doesn’t have much to do but look pretty as Robertson’s girlfriend, but she’s fine. The rest of the cast — especially the rest of Keith’s gang: Don Megowan, Mike Lane and Buddy Baer — are effective. Dick Kallman is suitably obnoxious as the punk kid with a gun (I really wanted to see him gunned down).
The great Floyd Crosby, another High Noon veteran, gives the picture the feel of something a lot bigger than it is — a trick he’d perform often for Roger Corman in the early 60s.
Hell Canyon Outlaws isn’t available on DVD or Blu-ray anywhere. Given the top-notch cast and crew working at the top of their game, this would be a great one to see in a nice anamorphic transfer (it was shot for 1.85). It’s currently available from Sinister Cinema, but I haven’t seen what it looks like. If I had my own video company, this is one I’d try to track down in a hurry.