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Westbound

(Budd Boetticher, USA, 1958): The most minor of the Scott/Boetticher westerns is still a blast to watch, but it remains the only one that strains from its budgetary restrictions and begs for meaner and leaner circumstances. First problem is that Scott’s not a brooding loner here, he’s a former stage line boss who’s reluctantly called from duty during the Civil War to assist in the transport of gold from California to the Union Forces at the front. In his honourable absence, the town he left has fallen to the pro-Confederate stage boss Andrew Duggan, who vows to block Hayes’ gold rush every step of the way. And he’s got the henchmen — led by the black-hatted Michael Pate — to back him up. But Scott’s not only got decency, manners and history itself to back him, he’s been helping a big kid one-armed Union vet (Michael Dante) and his comely wife (Karen Steele) to turn their farm into an alternate way-station for the union gold.  (In a nice Chuck Connors-like moment, he also shows the kid how to cock a rifle one-handed.) There’s much that’s right here, but what little wrong there is is too wrong: Pate’s villain has none of the tense, teasing camaraderie with Scott that Burt Kennedy’s villains did (this one was written by Berne Giler), and Duggan’s alcoholic stage boss gives up his steel way too easily. Which leaves all the goodness and moral high ground to Scott — who wears the cloak of paternal authority a little too comfortably — and leaves the movie with very little to do but bide its time until the evil nuisances are shooed out of town like yelping coyotes. (Warner Home Video)