BloodontheMoon3

Blood on the Moon (1948) 2.95/5 (3)
2.95/53

 

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Rating: The Good – 84.3
Genre: Western
Duration: 88 mins
Director: Robert Wise
Stars: Robert Mitchum, Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Preston

Robert Wise impressed across a number of genres during his career and this contribution to the great American movie form was one of his most significant, even it is has gone relatively unacknowledged. Blood on the Moon is a shadowy western noir that embraces the crime genre’s visual and writing conventions head on and pits hardened, sharp talking men and women against one another amid silhouette and darting slits of light. That everyone is sporting Stetsons and six shooters and fighting cattle wars is the only thing that reminds us we’re in the Old West.

Robert Mitchum is the drifter who finds himself drafted into one side of a complicated conflict in which his old friend (a loathsome Robert Preston) is manipulating two sides in a open range dispute against the other for his own aims. Lille Hayward’s dialogue is slick with insight and street (prairie) smarts to the extent that the cast and director alike seem inspired by it. Mitchum’s typically soulful presence is the central pillar to the movie’s success and that it’s one of his more endearing performances says a lot. Balancing the self preservation instincts of the great noir anti-heroes with the morality of the Old West champion, he foreshadows the great characters of the spaghetti western nearly two decades earlier. Barbara Bell Geddes makes the most of her plucky character in whom her affection for Mitchum’s gun hand represents an interesting conflict.

But Wise deserves the last mention for Blood on the Moon is certainly one of the more striking westerns to behold both flush with moodiness and overflowing with dusty grit. There was a time when cinema and television was inundated with westerns to the point that cinema goers became jaded with the genre. Despite a few efforts to rejuvenate its look and style in the late 50’s and 60’s, it never really recovered. That Blood on the Moon came at the height of the genre’s popularity makes Wise’s project all the impressive and indeed prescient. If others had taken more notice, the western might have survived.

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