Bend of the River (1952)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Western  |   Release Date - Feb 13, 1952 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 91 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Lucia Bozzola

Reuniting the star, writer and director of Winchester '73 (1950), Anthony Mann's Bend of the River (1952) explores the psychological "bend" faced by a troubled hero when he must confront his past. In Borden Chase's adaptation of Bill Gullick's novel, James Stewart's McLyntock is a divided man, a former Missouri raider trying to reform himself by guiding a group of settlers through the wilds of 1840s Oregon. The presence of Cole, a former raider gone resolutely bad, forces McLyntock to battle a man akin to his own secret, past self. Shot on location in Oregon, Mann's first Technicolor landscapes become an expressive part of the conflict between McLyntock and Cole, whether on the rough terrain of snowy Mt. Hood or in the climactic fight in a rushing river. Although settling down on a farm or a ranch is the nominal goal of the trip west, the settling is barely seen. Indeed, despite the positive ending, Bend of the River suggests -- through details of dialogue and Stewart's hints at the personal uncertainty beneath his tough, upstanding exterior -- that settling down in a happy valley might be too good to be true for McLyntock.