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 182: The Black Whip (1956)
Charles Marquis Warren’s The Black Whip has an unusual narrative for a Western of its era. For most of its runtime, it follows four prostitutes, all accused of aiding in the escape of a Confederate renegade. Unlike most films of its time, The Black Whip‘s story is strongly driven by these women, especially the terrific Coleen Gray and always reliable Angie Dickinson. Not only do their actions move the plot along, but they are the most courageous characters for most of the picture. This alone makes The Black Whip a film worth a look.
Otherwise, it’s a solid genre entry with plenty of suspense and action throughout. Its greatest weakness is a tendency to get sentimental and preachy in some of its quieter moments. I cringed when male lead Hugh Marlowe had to spell out his character’s internal struggle, something that should have been done with a more subtle approach. But the more I study Charles Marquis Warren’s work, I don’t think he had the subtextual touch of a Budd Boetticher or Delmer Daves. With mixed results, he painted with broader strokes.
On a final note, though he’s more of a one-note villain than I usually prefer, Paul Richards as Black Leg leader Murdock is a fun psychopath to watch. I’d point any writer of Western screenplays (who too often make their villains pure evil) to the fact that even this maniac has a moral code that he strictly sticks to.
Watched on YouTube