Rangers Vs Raiders
Audie Murphy western "Arizona Raiders" was released in 1965 yet everything about it feels early 1950s, from the look to the story which probably isn't a huge shock for those who know a little about westerns. Director William Witney spent the late 40s and early 50s directing westerns whilst the story is by Frank Gruber & Richard Schayer, that is the same Frank Gruber who wrote the story for 1951 movie "The Texas Rangers". I specifically mention "The Texas Rangers" because "Arizona Raiders" is for all sense and purposes a remake, a few name changes but they use the same story. It's not a criticism as many a western ended up similar to another but "Arizona Raiders" as such is just another western with nothing to make it stand out.
After the Civil War ended friends Clint (Audie Murphy - Bullet for a Badman) and Willie (Ben Cooper) join Quantrell's Raiders as amongst other things they were killing Carpet Baggers. But after one raid on an unsuspecting town the friends are double crossed by gang member Montana (George Keymas) who leaves them stranded and captured by Capt. Tom Andrews (Buster Crabbe). Sentenced to 20 years hard labour Andrews offers them a way out by joining his newly formed Arizona Rangers to go after a gang set up by Montana and fellow Raider Brady (Michael Dante). But they need to pretend to rejoin the gang of outlaws and Brady is less than convinced by the return of Clint and Willie.
So as already mentioned "Arizona Raiders" was written by Frank Gruber who also write "The Texas Rangers" amongst other things and in truth it is a remake. But being a remake isn't a problem because the basic storyline is quite good, we have outlaws, the law, revenge and plenty more in fact the only thing missing is the cliche romantic subplot but even then there is a brief scene which could constitute a mention. As such we have this semi gritty drama which focuses on Clint who wants revenge, is not keen on being on the side of the law and has hard decisions to face between going straight, becoming an outlaw all of which is complicated by issues of friendship and family when he discovers his younger brother has become an Arizona Ranger.
The thing is that the basic storyline is nicely put together, one thing connects nicely to another and there are a few dots to connect. But then the look of it which whilst again nicely done feels like something you would have seen a decade or two earlier. So from people jumping on horses, gunfights shot from distance and a cliche sexy woman thrown into a male dominated movie it feels older than it is. You sort of wish for something different to spice it up, a sudden zoom in on an angry Clint or even a split screen shot of Clint chasing Brady, just something to make it feel like it wasn't trying to be older than it was.
Aside from the look well the characters are all typically old western characters with good guys and bad guys filling various cliches. But then we do have the interesting character of Clint played by Audie Murphy because he walks the line in between being a good guy and a bad guy. He's not adverse to violence but he also doesn't like to resort to it immediately, he became an outlaw to get revenge after the war and that is all he wants. It makes him an anti-hero because he doesn't want to be a good guy yet he doesn't want to be a vicious outlaw either and Murphy gets this aspect across, a man torn between paths.
What this all boils down to is that "Arizona Raiders" has some very good points from the well written story to the complex character of Clint. But then with it having the look and style of a western from a decade earlier it feels quite ordinary, failing to do the storyline justice.