Backlash (1956)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Traditional Western  |   Run Time - 83 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Backlash may be set in the Old West, but it's as much a mystery/detective film as it is a Western. Combining the two genres often yields surprisingly effective results, but Backlash, despite a number of worthy elements, never becomes the totally satisfying picture that one keeps expecting it to become. Primary responsibility for this rests with director John Sturges and writer Borden Chase. The contributions of both are good, but they lack a little something that keeps the film, while entertaining, from reaching its potential. Where Chase is concerned, the issue seems to be an inability to quite capture the right mixture of the genres; it doesn't quite feel like a Western and it doesn't quite feel like a detective story. Sturges isn't able to reconcile this conflict, and he also doesn't seem to always have his heart into the proceedings. Some of it is very well directed, especially the climax which really brings the film to life. But there are other parts where one can almost feel the director's attention wandering. Fortunately, Backlash has both Irving Glassberg's sterling cinematography and a couple of captivating star performances from Richard Widmark and Donna Reed to compensate, as well as humdinger of a supporting turn from John McIntire.