Sierra Stranger (1957, directed by Lee Sholem)

Sierra Stranger starts with a familiar western situation.  Jess Collins (Howard Duff), a penniless but honorable drifter, comes across two men tying another man to the back of a horse.  The two men claim that Sonny Grover (Ed Kemmer) is an outlaw and a claim jumper and not to be trusted. Sonny says that he’s innocent and the two men are actually the claim jumpers.  Jess does what many a western hero has done.  He sides with the underdog and saves Sonny.  To thank him, Sonny gives Jess a part of his claim.

Jess rides into the nearby town to claim his new property.  He meets and befriends Sonny’s half-brother, Bert (Dick Foran).  He also meets and falls in love with Bert’s fiancée, Meg (Gloria McGeehee).  However, soon after arriving, Jess discovers that he made a mistake and he saved the wrong man.  Sonny really is the dangerous outlaw that everyone says he is.  After Sonny robs a stagecoach and murders the driver, Jess risks his new friendship with Bert by trying to bring Sonny to justice.

Howard Duff appeared in his share of B-westerns in the 50s.  He was always a solid hero, even if he didn’t really have the screen presence of some of the other stars of the genre.  He’s pretty good in Sierra Stranger and the fact that, for once, the town is right while the drifter is wrong is an interesting twist on an otherwise standard story.  This is the rare western where the hero makes a pretty big mistake and then has to spend the rest of the movie trying to make up for it.  If you’re not a western fan, this is not the type of B-movie that’s going to change your mind.  But, for those who do like the genre, it’s an interesting twist on what we’ve been led to naturally expect.

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