The Long Rope (1961, directed by William Whitney)

The time is the late 19th century and there’s been a murder in the territory of New Mexico.  Someone has gunned down Jim Matthews (Steve Welles) and store owner Manuel Alvarez (John Alonzo) has been arrested.  Everyone in town says that Jim was fooling around with Manuel’s beautiful wife, Alicia (Lisa Montell).  Manuel insists that he’s innocent but Jim was the brother of the town’s most powerful and richest land owner, Ben Matthews (Robert J. Wilke).  Ben is already having a gallows built so that Manuel can be hanged in the town square and it doesn’t look like there’s anything that Sheriff John Millard (Alan Hale, Jr. — yes, the Skipper) can do to stop him.

However, Federal Judge Jonas Stone (Hugh Marlowe) is determined to make sure that Manuel gets a fair trial.  When it becomes obvious that the Matthews family has no intention of letting that happen, Judge Stone launches his own investigation.  Believing Manuel to be innocent, Stone knows that he has to find the real killer before the gallows are built and Manuel is lynched by the mob.

A low-budget western with a 61-minute running time, The Long Rope is a surprisingly adult western, one that comes out strongly and directly against both lynching and the town’s racism.  With the Matthews family representing the brutal “old ways,” and Judge Stone representing a more enlightened and fair system of justice, it’s up to the town to decide who they will follow.  Hugh Marlowe brings a lot of gravitas to his role as the stern but compassionate Judge Stone while Lisa Montell makes a strong impression as Manuel’s rebellious wife.  Robert J. Wilke is an effective villain and even Alan Hale, Jr. gives a good performance once you stop thinking of him as being the Skipper.

One final note of interest: John A. Alonzo, who played Manuel in The Long Rope, went on to become an award-winning cinematographer.  Among Alonzo’s credits, as a cinematographer: Harold and Maude, Chinatown, The Bad News Bears, Black Sunday, Scarface, Norma Rae, and Close Encounters of Third Kind.

30 More Days of Noir #9: The Walking Target (dir by Edward L. Cahn)

In this 1960 noir, Nick Harbin (Ronald Foster) is a walking target!

That’s because he’s just been released from prison.  As the only survivor of a gang that pulled off a daring payroll robbery, Nick has done his time and he’s ready to get on with his life.  He even got himself an education while he was behind bars.  He’s decided to reform and no longer be the angry criminal that he once was.

But first, there’s a little matter of some money.

Only Nick knows where he buried the loot from the robbery.  Everyone wants it.  The press wants to know because it’ll make a great story.  A nosy detective wants to know because he’s convinced that Nick hasn’t changed his ways.  Susan (Merry Anders), who used to be involved with one of Nick’s criminal associates, wants to know because she’s only in it for the cash.  Susan’s current boyfriend, Dave (Robert Christopher) wants to know because …. well, again, it all comes down to greed.  Greed is also what’s motivating a local gangster to provide backing for Susan and Dave in their quest to find the money.  Dave is even willing to send Susan to seduce Nick.

However, all Nick wants to do is find the money and then split it with Gail (Joan Evans).  Gail is the widow of one of the robbers and Nick wants to do the right thing for her.  Of course, Nick is himself kind of in love with Gail.  Can Nick get the money, find love with Gail, and avoid slipping back into his criminal ways?  It won’t be easy.  Life is never easy when you’re….


Okay, that was a little bit melodramatic on my part but then again, it’s a melodramatic film.  Everyone is constantly plotting and double-crossing.  Appropriately, it all leads to a battle in the desert as modern-day outlaws prove themselves to be no more trustworthy than their vintage ancestors.

The Walking Target is a low-budget noir, one that clocks in at only 70 minutes and which, as a result, doesn’t waste much time when it comes to jumping into its story.  That’s one good thing about these B-movies.  They had neither the budget nor the time for red herrings.  As a result, you pretty much know what you’re going to get before the movies even begins.  The Walking Target features all of the usual tough dialogue and morally ambiguous characters that you would expect to see in a noir.  Merry Anders is an adequate femme fatale, though I do wish that Susan had been a smarter character.  (Nick sees through her way too easily.)  The film opens with the prison’s warden telling Nick that, even though he’s done his time, he’ll always be a no-good crook and that’s the perfect way for a noir to open.  Unfortunately, the film’s cinematography doesn’t really have the right noir look.  There aren’t enough shadows and the film often looks like it could just be an episode of an old TV show.  I guess that’d due to the budget but it really does keep the film from making the transition from being good to being great.

The Walking Target is a diverting-enough film.  I liked Ronald Foster’s uneasy performance as Nick and it was enjoyable to watch everyone plotting and scheming.  The Walking Target is currently available on Prime and I recommend it to anyone looking for a good, if lesser-known, B-noir.

Catching Up With Alex Nall’s “Kids With Guns”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

You can’t keep a good cartoonist down, and Alex Nall is considerably more than that, so when we all went into “lockdown mode” he continued releasing his ongoing Kids With Guns series online, with the most flexible payment terms I believe anyone’s every offered : if you read it and liked it, he just asked you to pay whatever you could afford for it. Now that we’re pretending the pandemic is over, though, the siren call of self-publishing has once again called out to him, and actual, physical copies of issues three and four are finally available — and it’s now incumbent upon me to tell you why you should buy them.

I’ve already reviewed the first two installments of this quiet, human-scale epic, but for those unfamiliar with the particulars, the most basic distillation I can offer is that what we’ve ostensibly got here is the story of an…

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