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 185: Tension at Table Rock (1956)
This Western from Charles Marquis Warren is a curious case. It feels like several movies packed into one. At first, it seems headed in the ex-Confederate/rode for Quantrill direction, then it turns into a town-against-the-wrong-man film like De Toth’s Riding Shotgun, then it goes the way of The Tall T for ten minutes before settling into a Shane-like plot for the rest of its runtime. The hodgepodge of plots makes Tension at Table Rock unique but it short changes some of the story and character development.
This impacts one performance in particular, Dorothy Malone’s. The actress, who worked best in Film Noir, doesn’t have enough time (and possibly the right writing/direction) to bring her character off. I never bought her affection for Richard Egan because her tension with Cameron Mitchell isn’t well established. Warren doesn’t take his time showing how this woman thinks, feels, and the growing divide with her husband as carefully as George Stevens did in the aforementioned classic.
That being said, Tension at Table Rock is a surprisingly good Western and a sadly forgotten one. Egan is a great lead, Mitchell pulls off the wounded Sheriff, and supporting roles from genre veterans such as Royal Dano really bring it home. The last ten minutes, featuring an antagonist played by DeForest Kelley, might be the highlight of the picture.
It boggles my storytelling mind a little to think of how well this movie works, even with the flaws I’ve mentioned and its odd structure, but it does and that’s all that matters.