“Saddle the Wind” (1958)
Directed by: Robert Parrish
Written by: Rod Serling
Cast: Robert Taylor, John Cassavettes, Julie London, Donald Crisp
A western that should have been much, much better.
Robert Taylor is a retired gunfighter, happy to work his prosperous spread and leave his killing days behind him.
There’s only one problem: his headstrong, violent brother. As played by John Cassavettes, the kid is twitchy and neurotic; a good analyst would work wonders for the guy, ferret out some of the insecurity and awe he feels in the presence of his older sibling. Their relationship is only further complicated by, you guessed it, a woman, a hopelessly wasted Julie London (who also warbles the movie’s insipid title song).
A different cast would’ve helped immeasurably. Robert Taylor barely emotes during the movie, a performance that might charitably be called effortless except I really do think he’s trying. Joel McCrea or Jimmy Stewart have done much more with far less. Cassavettes, on the other hand, tries too hard, a smoldering, cerebral portrayal of a man on the edge; it doesn’t work. As for Ms. London, well, she looks pretty, which is all the part demands. A cardboard cutout would have sufficed and somehow I think she knew it.
Robert Parrish was a jack of all trades: an accomplished film editor (Oscar winner for Robert Rossen’s “Body and Soul”) and actor (as a child, he worked with Chaplin), he also directed a good number of films and TV shows. Included among the former is a pretty decent science fiction effort from the early 1970’s called “Journey to the Far Side of the Sun” (aka “Doppelganger”). But “Saddle the Wind” is not a distinguished offering—too much formula present, the assembled talent merely going through the motions. Considering that Rod Serling wrote the screenplay, you have to wonder what happened to the dramatic twists and turns, the surprise ending.
None of that is in evidence here. After a promising beginning, the film bogs down, dramatic tension leaking out with an audible hiss. Fortunately for Serling, his next stop was “The Twilight Zone”…