Thursday, April 14, 2016

Femme Fatales in Westerns, Part 2

1958's The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold is the last time Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels appeared as the Ranger and Tonto in a television episode or film. And they went out on a high note--the movie is one of my favorite Lone Ranger stories, with a strong story populated with interesting supporting characters.

One of those characters is Frances Henderson (Noreen Nash), a widow who is also a prominent citizen in the local community. On top of that, she's a ruthless Femme Fatale willing to leave a trail of bodies behind her to get what she wants.

What she wants are five medallions which, when put together, form a map giving the location of the titular Lost City. The medallions belong to five different Indians, so she vamps Ross Brady (Douglas Kennedy) into leading a gang of masked bandits to acquire them. The gang also pulls off a few other robberies to hide their real motive.

But it's hard to hide anything from the Lone Ranger. It's even hard for a cold-blooded Femme Fatale to vamp him, regardless of how pleasant she may be to gaze upon. As this clip shows, the Ranger will simply play mind games with her.

Also, there's an Indian doctor pretending to be white to fit in with the town folk,an Indian girl who loves the doctor but is disgusted by what she sees as his moral cowardice in passing as white, and  a brutal sheriff who hates anyone with red skin. These subplots all tie nicely together for the finale, in which a wounded Tonto must protect the doctor, the girl and a baby while dodging the masked bandits in a deserted Indian village.

This climatic gun battle, by the way, is excellent, giving Tonto an extended Crowning Moment of
Awesome before he finally collapses from his wound. But the Ranger is there to take over. Oh, and IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: If the Ranger's horse Silver has befriended a baby, do NOT in any way at all threaten that baby. It won't end well for you. It just won't.

Aside from a great story wrapped in clever mystery and highlighted by strong action scenes, the movie is also notable in how it portrays racism as the brutal and hurtful thing it is. For a movie from the 1950s that would have been marketed to children as well as adults, this it truly impressive.

As of my writing this, I'm not sure if I'm going to consciously do a Part 3 to the Femme Fatales in Westerns theme. But these nasty if beautiful women show up in Westerns nearly as often as they do in Film Noirs, so we'll probably touch on the subject again in the future regardless of how I title the post.

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