Sunday, July 6, 2014

RAMROD (1947)

Made at pretty much the height of Hollywood's classic film noir period, RAMROD shares a lot of similarities with film noir: stark B&W photography filled with deep shadows, a sexy femme fatale, brutal violence and a grim story.

Veronica Lake is the daughter of a rancher (Charles Ruggles) who himself is under the thumb of an even more powerful cattleman, Preston Foster.  Her father wants her to marry Foster but she wants nothing of it.  When the film opens yet another rancher (and the man Veronica loves) is being ran out of town with his tail between his legs.  Before he leaves he signs his ranch over to Lake since he believes that she has a better chance of making it work than she does.  The first thing she does is hire local ranch hand Joel McCrea to be ranch foreman.  He knows this is the beginning of a violent range war so he only agrees if Veronica swears to play on the side of the law and make the other sides out to be the bad guys.  She agrees, but soon tires at McCreas slow pace. She starts using her feminine ways ("From now on I'm gonna make a life of my own.  And being a woman I won't have to use guns.") to speed up the process, but it only ends up creating more bloodshed.

RAMROD is a interesting western.  The story is complex.  In fact, when the film starts there's so much stuff going on it almost feels like you just walked in on the middle of the picture.  The casting is brilliant.  I especially liked the casting of the normally comedic Charles Ruggles as Lake's serious father.  The direction by Andre De Toth (who was Lake's real life husband at the time) is confident and the camerawork by Russell Harlen is very impressive and a joy to watch.  Recommended for western fans. 

My only reservation is Veronica Lake herself.  She does a fine job, but I think somebody like Barbara Stanwyck would have brought much more depth to the character.
Boom mic shadow.

Blink and you'll miss Jeff Corey as a hotel employee.