Robert Mitchum in 5 Card Stud (1968)

The Gambler's Back in Town

After Van Morgan (Dean Martin) leaves his regular card game he hears a commotion going on as Nick Evers (Roddy McDowall) has discovered one of the men was cheating and leads the rest of the men in a lynching. When Morgan goes to prevent the hanging he ends up take a gun butt to the head and after coming around leaves town. Not long after The Rev. Jonathan Rudd (Robert Mitchum) arrives in town to set up church which coincides with the men who were at the card game the night the hanging took place being killed one by one. It leads to Van returning to town as he tries to get to the bottom of who is doing the killing especially with Nick acting cocky towards everyone.

"5 Card Stud" is another one of those westerns where the idea ends up a lot better than the final movie. In fact I really like the idea of making a western a mystery with men involved in a lynching being picked off one by one, often strangled or hung by an unseen killer. Unfortunately for a variety of reasons "5 Card Stud" just doesn't do that idea justice.

Dean Martin and Roddy McDowall in 5 Card Stud (1968)

In truth the biggest issue with "5 Card Stud" is we have more characters than the movie needs with each actor doing there own things. So we have Robert Mitchum playing Rudd as is he was Harry Powell in "The Night of the Hunter" whilst Dean Martin delivers one of the most characterless performances going. But then you have Roddy McDowall making Nick almost psychotic in his villainous ways. But then on top of this you have Katherine Justice as Nick's naive sister and Inger Stevens as Lily Lansford, a local madam, two characters who add nothing what so ever to the story. In truth it is Yaphet Kotto who delivers the movie's best performance and one which feels like it fits with the movie's theme.

What this all boils down to is that "5 Card Stud" could have been a good movie but the end result whilst entertaining is not as good as it should have been. In fact this has a feel of a western where they threw money at bringing in some famous faces but didn't give them the direction to have them all working off of the same page when it comes to the movie's style.