In this gripping Western, John Payne stars as Dan Ballard, a respected and well-liked rancher in the small town where he has lived for the past two years.
During the town’s Fourth of July celebrations, four strangers ride into town, led by a belligerent and unpleasant thug (Dan Duryea) who claims to be a US Marshal with a warrant for Ballard’s arrest for murder.
Over the course of the action (which is equivalent in time span to the film’s running time), the townspeople turn against Ballard, eventually forming a mob to hunt him down as he labours to prove his innocence.
Silver Lode is the Allan Dwan film par excellence: concise, plain, inventive, fluid, ironic, and unspectacular-but-beautiful.
No Western, probably, has more shots through windows (Dwan likes to stage scenes in depth and to emphasise situations in which characters observe each other), and few make such splendid use of the familiar architecture and decor of the Hollywood Western town.
In a single stunning shot, Dwan’s camera tracks with Payne as he runs four blocks across town.
Thanks to the director’s visual assurance (and the lighting genius of John Alton) Silver Lode is one of the best of the American cinema’s many underrated Westerns.
Michael ‘Mitch’ Evans
Harry Carey Jr
Alan Hale Jr
Joe, the bartender