Thursday, July 10, 2014

Femme Fatales Decision At Sundown

Decision At Sundown 11x17 Movie Poster (1957)

  Ah, yes, femme fatales. Not only are they fine to gaze upon they are also a crime writer's best friend. Make a list of your favorite hardboiled and noir movies and you likely find a fatale femme in many if not most of them.

  I mentioned "gazing upon"them. Well, in a unique twist there's a 1957 movie in which the femme sets a small town ablaze and nobody has even seen her for a long, long time.

The movie is "Decision at Sundown" and it's one of the justly famous Randolph Scott westerns directed by Budd Boetticher. The hallmarks of these pictures were the low budgets, the excellent scripts and the  inability to sometimes tell the bad guys from the good.

Here we have Scott returning to ruin the wedding of the powerful man Scott believes stole his wife before she disappeared. Scott was in the war and when he returned he found she'd run off with the man who was about to be married.

Scott has reasoned in his loneliness, rage and misery that his wife was so ashamed of what she'd done that she couldn't face the judgment of the townspeople let alone that of her husband.

Scott plans to spoil the man's wedding by killing him, pushing him into a gunfight. The Sheriff tries to run him out of town but Scott and an old friend hole up, Scott waiting for the right moment. 

What could have been a standard cowboy story becomes a fascinating drama as Scott gradually learns that the "innocent" wife he so loves had always cheated on him. The powerful man was only one of many.

We are near the end of the second act before Scott learns that his grief and madness--and Scott does a good job of portraying both--has been for a woman he knew nothing about.

A true femme fatale.

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