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The Violent Men

(Rudolph Maté, USA, 1954): Finally recuperated from the Confederate bullet that blazed a trial through his torso, Glenn Ford’s small ranch operator decides to return east after selling his property to the territory’s greediest monopolist, a crippled, crutch-bound Edward G. Robinson. The issue is this: will Ford allow his cynicism to let him flee when the ‘valley’ and its small toilers need him most? Or will he stand and fight the proto-corporate rapaciousness of Robinson, his formidable wife Barbara Stanwyck and smolderingly uncrippled kid brother Brian Keith?  The basic premise of Rudolph Maté’s gorgeously rendered but structurally shaky range war western is High Noon on the open plain, but the motivating issue of Ford’s pragmatic pacifism — he doesn’t see killing as bad but pointless — gets so literally swept off the screen by Stanwyck’s bull-neutering matriarch that he seems to surrender the movie to another altogether. By the time he re-appears, mercifully divested of his pacifism and ready to burn his own property to prove the point, Stanwyck’s already yanked the crutches out from under her husband, left him to die in a burning mansion, and galloped off with the movie entirely. A decade later she’d show up on TV, mistress supreme of The Big Valley and its stable of studs. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)