Great Colour, Good Story but Average Western
"The Desperadoes" was to be Columbia Studios first Technicolor movie and you get a sense that they were determined to make it a success with a good cast and a western storyline full of popular elements. And to be honest "The Desperadoes" looks stunning ever now almost 70 years after it was released with a beautiful tone to the image whilst delivering some stunning action. But ironically whilst "The Desperadoes" looks good the actual storyline ends up rather boring or at least ordinary with only a couple of minor moments of ingenuity as a lot of western cliche is delivered.
In Red Valley, Utah Uncle Willie (Edgar Buchanan), the coach driver is in cahoots with the bank manager who after removing the money from the bank's safe pays some outlaws to rob the bank, making it look like everyone's money has been stolen. But when the robbery turns violent and a couple of locals get shot it changes things as Sheriff Steve Upton (Randolph Scott - My Favorite Wife) is feeling pressure from the locals to catch the killer. And when an old friend of the Sheriff's, outlaw Cheyenne Rogers (Glenn Ford - Superman) arrives in town those behind the robbery are all too happy to set him up to take the fall. Except for Uncle Willie things become complicated as his daughter Allison (Evelyn Keyes) falls for the innocent Cheyenne.
So it has to be said again "The Desperadoes" does look absolutely fantastic and unlike some other Technicolor movies from the era the colours look real. It really does grab your attention and whilst there are far too many scenes where we have actors basically posing in front of the camera you can't but help be impressed. And if you put that into context that a movie almost 70 years old is still visually impressive I am sure it must have blown audiences away when it was released.
Anyway as for the actual storyline well you almost get a sense that for their first Technicolor movie Columbia Studios wanted to deliver something which audiences would enjoy but that little bit more. As such we have this western storyline which initially seems quite clever as we learn that the corrupt bank manager along with stagecoach driver Uncle Wille have pulled a stunning swindle by removing the money from the bank, having it robbed and then offering to compensate all the citizens with 50 cents in every dollar they lost whilst pocketing the rest. Unfortunately after this clever opening "The Desperadoes" becomes quite ordinary where we have an outlaw come to town who is an old friend of the local sheriff and ends up being blamed for the robbery. Throw in a few brawls, a romantic sub plot and some treachery and sadly after that clever start things play out in a less than surprising manner.
And in a way it is a shame because "The Desperadoes" has a lot going for it and the various action scenes whilst for the most cliches are brilliantly shot. A horse stampede is surprisingly dramatic whilst a bar room brawl has some great moments of comedy.
And to be honest "The Desperadoes" also has a very good cast with Randolph Scott, Claire Trevor, Evelyn Keyes and Edgar Buchanan all delivering solidly enjoyable performance. Although in fairness this is a movie which belongs to Glenn Ford, a very young looking Glenn Ford who as Cheyenne Rogers displays this quite confidence which makes him surprisingly appealing. In fact whilst we do learn a bit about Cheyenne how through trying to protect someone he was forced to become an outlaw the character is not deep, yet the way Ford plays him makes him feel like a man of different layers.
What this all boils down to is that "The Desperadoes" is in many ways just another western which whilst starts of on a clever note ends up being quite routine. But it is impossible not to watch "The Desperadoes" and not be impressed by either a fresh faced Glenn Ford or the wonderful use of Technicolor to deliver a tone and beauty which even now looks absolutely amazing.