Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews. I have now launched a podcast about the making of Westerns and the overall filmmaking process. Click here to listen.
Week 148: Kansas Pacific
As I look at Sterling Hayden Westerns this month, it’s a little ironic that two of them are focused on railroad construction (not the most common topic in the genre) and are specifically named after the railroads. Though I have no research to back it up, it’s quite possible that the studio’s casting of Hayden in this film might have been directly linked to his involvement in Denver & Rio Grande.
Thankfully, this film has a lot more of the tall, gruff actor. In fact, it serves both the protagonist and antagonist better than the other railroad-themed picture. Quantrill, the film’s villain played by Reed Hadley, is given enough screen time to show him as more than a two dimensional bad guy. For those interested in the Civil War, it’s also fun to see the renegade leader in a pre-war portrayal.
Overall, Kansas Pacific is a superior picture to Denver & Rio Grande though it remains a standard Western of its day, playing it by the book. The supporting characters all serve their purpose even if none of them particularly stand out. The location photography and action surrounding the train are once again the shining stars. The scene with the cannon firing on the locomotive is quite the spectacle and nearly worth the price of admission (or time of viewing in this case).
Though not remarkable, Kansas Pacific does alert my attention to yet another director who must be included in my upcoming “The Men Who Made Westerns” book. He is now on my radar.
Watched on Tubi.