More Cowboys & Vengeance
"The Raiders" or "Riders of Vengeance" as it is also known can only be described as a stereotypical 50s western one of the mass made variety which does nothing to build on the cliches it employs. And as such it is basically entertaining but not in the least bit memorable as we have the story of a husband looking for vengeance after his wife and brother are murdered. In fact I would say that "The Raiders" is a movie which if you're not into 50s westerns to avoid because from lack of period atmosphere to routine elements it's all a little dull for anyone who doesn't enjoy the genre.
Jan Morrell (Richard Conte - Call Northside 777) along with his wife and brother have been working their claim in California and are close to having enough money to move on and start a new life as ranchers in Napa Valley. But that changes when not only is their gold stolen but his wife and brother are murdered leaving Jan determined to get revenge. Hooking up with other land owners who have been forced to sell up to Thomas Ainsworth (Morris Ankrum) through strong arm tactics they work together to not only bring an end to Ainsworth's corrupt business but also to get revenge on the men who murdered his kin.
I have lost count of the number of westerns that have employed the story of a corrupt business man using cowboys to bully and kill people to get their land and "The Raiders" is no different because here we have Jan Morrell trying to find out who it was who murdered his wife and shot his brother before extracting revenge. And almost as typical is the fact that Jan ends up leading a small group of disgruntled land owners all of which have been bullied off their land by men who work for Thomas Ainsworth. As such we have the traditional story of the men giving Ainsworth a taste of his own medicine whilst Jan also tries to settle the score for the murders. And just as typically there is the obligatory romantic sub plot which sees Jan meeting the delightful Elena who wants him to stop his campaign of revenge.
As such "The Raiders" plays out mostly in a very typical manner with Jan discovering which men were behind the murders and tackling them one by one. But there is at least a slightly different slant on proceedings because whilst we have Ainsworth corruptly building his empire he is also buying politicians in order to keep California out of the union. It's not that much of a subplot but does add something extra to the story and does end up being of importance to deliver an ending which isn't that much of a surprise.
So basically "The Raiders" is stereotypical western fodder and the whole look of it is stereotypical as well. I am know aficionado on the cultural history of America but the look of the west is pretty much identical to the look delivered in westerns set much later than 1849 and the Gold Rush. It just adds to that general feeling that it is a western not made because it had a great storyline but because at the time audiences were lapping up the genre on the big screen.
"The Raiders" sorting of saving grace is that it has a reasonable cast especially in Richard Conte who as Jan leads the movie nicely and exhibits the focus of a man determined to get revenge. Alongside him you also have a good performance from Hugh O'Brian as the evil Hank Purvis and he is evil with his menacing grin and the fact it is he we see man handle Mrs. Morrell into a room before returning blooded but looking satisfied and her lying dead on the floor. And talking of Mrs. Morrell there are three beauties in Margaret Field, Barbara Britton and Viveca Lindfors and it does seem to be the case that each have been cast because they are beautiful because their characters end up having little to do other than look happy or sad.
What this all boils down to is that "The Raiders" is basically a standard 1950's western which runs with the revenge storyline intertwined with that of a corrupt business man forcing people off their land. It adds nothing new to the well worn formula other than some solid performances which at least makes it entertaining for western fans.