Blood on the Moon is a brooding yet rousing Western, one of those that began appearing in the late 1940s which emphasized a psychological approach to the oater. Blood's basic tale is not terribly original, dealing with land disputes and cattle ownership and Indians and encompassing traditional Western set pieces like the obligatory shoot-out. Yet it's skillfully told in Lillie Hayward's screenplay and through Robert Wise's shrewd and assured direction. Indeed, Wise approaches Blood more like a film noir than a traditional Western, and this approach pays big dividends in the shadowy, often eerie work of cinematographer Nick Musuraca. Ultimately what happens in Blood is less important than how it happens and what it reveals, and Wise displays an impressive talent for letting actions speak louder than words and for finding the meaning beneath words that help to tell the "real" tale of the piece. It's an invigorating approach, but one that would have gone nowhere without the right cast to support it, and especially without the right star. Fortunately, Robert Mitchum is exactly what Wise and the film needed, and his questionable, shifting sense of morality adds significant layers to Blood. Laconic yet capable of becoming a raging bull in half a second, Mitchum perfectly captures the essence of his character -- and of the film.
by Craig Butler review