McCrea Has a Good Time for Justice
Richard 'Rick' Thorne (Joel McCrea - Black Horse Canyon) is a circuit Judge, travelling west from town to town dealing with legal matters wherever he goes. When he comes to his next town he quickly realises that the place is owned by the Bannerman family with their name blazoned across every building and business. Attorney Col. Buck Streeter (John Carradine), a lackey of Mr. Bannerman, welcomes Rick to the town and extends the Bannerman welcoming hand much to Rick's disapproval as he is instantly sceptical of how much power the Bannerman family and their patriarch Josiah Bannerman (John McIntire) has. When he learns that Josiah's son Tom (Kevin McCarthy) killed a man supposedly in self defence and has not been arrested he decides he wants the case tried in his court. In doing so it stirs up a hornet's nest of trouble as the Bannerman family don't take kindly to this stranger even if he is a Judge upsetting their way of having things done.
"Stranger on Horseback" is a western which is aided by the actors especially Joel McCrea who is in his comfort zone as the travelling Judge, the fearless man of unimpeachable morals who is unafraid to stir things up when the law needs to be upheld. Because of McCrea gliding through the movie in a role which fits him like a glove you take to him immediately but he has a mighty fine supporting cast adding some nice variations. Kevin McCarthy brings an element of hot headedness to his role as Tom whilst John Carradine comes across as slippery character as the attorney who sidles up to Rick as he does the Bannerman clan. Plus there is of course the attractive Miroslava as Amy Lee, the sharp shooting Bannerman cousin who to let something slip becomes an unlikely ally. And Miroslava is not the only attractive young lady in the movie as there are small parts for the beautiful Nancy Gates and Jaclynne Greene.
But beyond the strong performances "Stranger on Horseback" is a solid but unremarkable western which covers some already well trodden trails that other westerns had ventured down. Basically be it a lawman or a judge the idea of one coming to town and having to deal with the controlling family isn't anything new and so over the course of the movie's 66 minutes you know that Judge Thorne will be out numbered by the Bannerman family but with a couple of allies stand strong against them till he ends up in a one on one shootout. For all sense and purpose I am saying that "Stranger on Horseback" is predictable but entertaining if you enjoy the occasional western.
What this all boils down to is that "Stranger on Horseback" is an entertaining enough western buoyed by strong performances from Joel McCrea and Kevin McCarthy but it isn't anything special.