In an attempt to blend film noir with the Western, Anthony Mann made a 1950 movie called “The Furies,” which stars Barbara Stanwyck, Walter Houston, Gilbert Roland and Wendell Corey. While I would have preferred the movie to be more brightly lit, The Furies offers Stanwyck in a terrific performance and some garrulous acting by Houston. A lot of shouting goes on while Houston’s character, T. C. Jeffords, figures out how to save his Furies Ranch in New Mexico from a conniving banker played by Corey. Stanwyck plays Vance Jeffords, the strong and capable daughter of T. C. They come into severe conflict when T. C. decides to marry a city woman named Flo Burnett (Judith Anderson in a fine performance), who Vance (rightly) takes for a gold digger.
Two other things complicate T. C.’s relationship with Vance. She falls in love with the conniving banker, and T. C. and the bankers want to throw all the squatters off the Furies Ranch. But Vance wants T. C. to allow a close childhood friend and sqatter, Juan Herrera (Gilbert Roland), and his family to remain on the property. Juan loves Vance dearly, and they are really soul-mates, but their social classes keep them from a real romance. When T. C. and Vance finely reach irreconcilable differences, the movie delves into a twisted tale of double-crossing and revenge with the clever Vance leading the way. Ironically, director Anthony Mann manages to prevent T. C. from being a totally unsympathetic character. We’re made to think of him as a product of the age of stout and irascible Western men, but Huston’s natural appeal helps too.
Corey does well playing banker Rip Darrow, who T. C. earlier cheated out of some family lands. Darrow wants his family’s land back, and isn’t above cheating both T. C. and Vance to get it. At first glance, a love affair between Rip and Vance doesn’t seem like it would work, but Corey plays it so cool to Stanwyck’s heat that the chemistry works. I kept my eyes on Stanwyck, of course; she looks great and bounces around the film with perfect kinetic energy.
A key scene in the movie involves T. C.’s move against the squatters on his land. Director Mann plays the scene so darkly that it’s hard to see exactly what’s going on except a lot of shooting and yelling on some high rocky ground. What happens during this extended scene is horrific enough without all the dark, shadowy black and white screen. Other than that, I enjoyed the direction and especially the acting by Stanwyck and Huston.