Saturday, December 13, 2014

It's Dangerous To Ride Alone, Take Buchanan

Buchanan Rides Alone is a peculiar little Randolph Scott Western. He plays Buchanan, and rides into the border town of Agry on his way back to West Texas. He's made a healthy sum fighting in Mexico, and he's headed home to set up a ranch. But first he has to run the gauntlet of this incestuous little town, established and run by the Agry family. Simon is a judge running for Senator. Lou is the crooked sheriff, and Amos is the most inbred goofball of the bunch, who runs and inn, when he isn't running back and forth between his brothers, trying to play them against each other. Problem being, he's too much of an idiot to do it in a way that really nets him much of anything.

Buchanan just tries to get a steak and whiskey, but Simon's son takes his liquor, and vows to kill Buchanon when he finishes drinking it. Yeah, it's dumb, but the bartender was told not to give the loudmouth anything, and when Buchanan stepped in to order, the guy tried to pistol whip him, so Buchanan decked the twerp. Anyway, Buchanan ends up having his confrontation short-circuited by a young man named Juan, here because the loudmouth dishonored his sister. Said loudmouth is shot, Buchanan tries to keep Juan from being beaten by the constabulary, and they both wind up in jail, on trial for murder.

At which point the scheming between the Agry's comes to the forefront. Simon starts trying to delay Juan's hanging (he freely admits he killed the man, but won't explain why, so there's no doubt he's guilty), and extort his wealthy father (who may have been a big hero in the Revolution). Lou gets wind of it, and tries to move Juan someplace else, so Juan's father will give him the money. Lou also stole Buchanan's money, then had him escorted out of town and tried to have him killed (surprisingly, the jury listened to Buchanan's story and found him innocent. I hadn't expected that, but I guess it's only the Agrys who are crooked). When the murder fails, you have Buchanan running around, trying to get his money back, and also, eventually, to help Juan.

At that point, circumstances start changing so rapidly it gets silly. Every couple of minutes, somebody else has the upper hand, someone is in jail, or not in jail, someone is getting shot, or not. Hard for anything to have an impact, because nothing sticks long enough to set in. Plus, it makes everyone look kind of stupid, locked in a race to see who makes the fewest mistakes.

The more I think about it, my favorite character is Craig Stevens, who plays Carbo, Simon's right-hand man. He seems like the standard hotshot hired gun you expect Buchanan will have to kill eventually, but it never goes that way. They're on opposite sides of a large shootout once, but otherwise, they never face each other in the middle of a dusty street, in the classic manner. Which means Carbo is the smart one. He knows better than to fight Randolph Scott if he can avoid it. I really like that, the guy who sits back and watches these brothers and their stupid fights and struggles, and steps in when he has to for appearances' sake and to protect his position, but doesn't do anything out of anger. He might fight Buchanan, but only for the ransom money, not to build his rep or out of revenge. He might work with Buchanan, if Lou is the bigger problem at the moment. Carbo has a clear idea of his priorities, and acts with them in mind at all times.

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