Budd Boetticher | Subjects | Visual Style

Films: One Mysterious Night | The Missing Juror | Escape in the Fog | Assigned to Danger | Behind Locked Doors | Killer Shark | The Bullfighter and the Lady | The Cimarron Kid | Horizons West | Seminole | The Man from the Alamo | The Killer Is Loose | Seven Men from Now | The Count of Monte Cristo: The Affair of the Three Napoleons | The Tall T | Maverick: War of the Silver Kings | Maverick: Point Blank | Maverick: According to Hoyle | Decision at Sundown | Buchanan Rides Alone | Ride Lonesome | Westbound | Comanche Station | The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond | Hong Kong: Colonel Cat | The Rifleman: Stopover

Classic Film and Television Home Page (with many articles on directors) | Television Western Articles

Budd Boetticher

Budd Boetticher directed many Hollywood films. He is famous for his Westerns, and for three films he made about bullfighters. He worked steadily in film and television (1944 - 1961), then made a handful of films later.

Articles on Boetticher:

Budd Boetticher: Subjects

Dictatorial Towns: Tricksters: Characters: Minorities: Gender: Technology, Communication and Surveillance: Technology, General: Information: Medicine: Community: Thirst: Getting into Water: Imagery and Landscape:

Budd Boetticher: Visual Style

Curves and Circles: Straight Line Geometry: Grillwork: Group Movement: Open Spaces: Staging and Camera Angles: Shadows: Camera Movement: Color: Props: Clothes:

One Mysterious Night

One Mysterious Night (1944) is Boetticher's first feature (or at least the first one where he gets onscreen credit). It is part of the long running series of Boston Blackie films, about a reformed thief who tries to track down crooks. Like most such Hollywood series, it has quite a bit of comedy, and is low budget and short - just over an hour. The title has little to do with the actual movie: much of the action takes place during the day, and certainly transpires over more than a 12 hour period! Like most Hollywood crime series films, One Mysterious Night is definitely NOT a film noir, a movement then gathering steam in Hollywood. It does not resemble film noir, in either style or content.

Boston Blackie is a master of disguise, like many sleuths. This is part of his characterization throughout the series. Boetticher includes plenty of disguise in One Mysterious Night. Disguise is used by the crook in The Killer Is Loose.

Camera Movement

The most notable feature of One Mysterious Night is the large amount of camera movement. In scene after scene, Boetticher's camera is swooping around.

The camera movements tend to have a left-to-right or right-to-left motion.

The movements often go from one side of the set to another, and then often back again, in the reverse direction - all in the same shot. Some shots, such as one in the inspector's office, or the shot after the shooting on the street, involve more than two movements back and forth across the set. Boetticher can follow characters, as they move back and forth from one side of the set to the other. Or he can simply have the camera explore the scene.

Sometimes, Boetticher uses simple pans to move back and forth across the set: the early shot of the police crossing the street to get into the hotel, the back-and-forth panning in the inspector's office. Other times, Boetticher can combine panning with tracking, as in the first shot in the Chinese restaurant, in which a back-and-forth pan seems to give way to tracking that follows the waiter.

Boetticher can use a slightly elevated angle for his pans and tracks, that reveals the layout of the sets, and makes clear the motion of his characters through it. The elevated angle is steepest in the scene near the end, in which Blackie and the police arrive at the crooks' hideout. He can also pan or track head-on, with a non-tilted camera.

Boetticher can also move his camera forward, often to frame his characters more tightly. This can occur alone, or as part of an otherwise panning-based sequence. More rarely, he can move his camera straight back a little, also to reframe.

Both at the apartment, and at the pawnshop, Boetticher includes camera movements that sweep behind walls of the sets, following the characters from room to room. These are relatively common in movies. Still, such shots can have a non-realistic quality, and are quite conspicuous. These do not seem like "invisible" camera movements. They were a form of "Hollywood magic" that might be noticeable even to naive audiences. These room-to-room tracks also move from left to right, and right to left, like most of the camera movement in One Mysterious Night.

There are also some vertical camera movements. Boetticher moves up from the police playing cards, to the crooks hidden above them, pretending to be tailor's dummies. And Boetticher moves straight up, following his heroes' attempt to escape from the Murphy bed.

Young Punks and Strong Decent Women

The young hotel assistant manager who is involved with the theft seems to be the first of the no-good young man characters who get involved with crime, and who wind up dead, caught in the crosshairs of intrigue involving older, tougher and smarter men: see Buchanan Rides Alone. This is a common Boetticher character type.

The women, who work on terms of equality in a man's world, anticipate the later women in Boetticher's Westerns. The emotionally strong switchboard operator, and her brother, the weak-kneed punk who gets involved in the robbery, anticipate the strong decent woman-lesser crooked male husband and wife of Seven Men from Now.

Male Groups

In later Boetticher films, crooks often have entourages, young men who largely dress alike. Although they are not crooks, or followers of a leader, One Mysterious Night has some striking male groups. One Mysterious Night opens with police walking in a V-wedge on a city street. They seem ominous, a tough looking, all-uniformed group. We only gradually learn they are on the way to guard a jewel exhibit. A later scene with the police in the pawnshop, has all the policemen carrying nightsticks. This adds a striking visual note.

A group of reporters hang out at police headquarters gathering crime news. They are dressed in similar suits, that are well groomed, but which have a working-man feel to them.

The police Inspector Farraday and Blackie have a close relationship. The dialogue refers to it as "a beautiful friendship". This phrase has overtones of special male bonding. It is used in this sense in Ellery Queen's mystery novel The Dragon's Teeth (1939) (Chapter 1), and at the end of the film Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1941). Farraday keeps threatening Blackie with arrest, something which Blackie makes clear he enjoys, in dialogue at the end of the film. It is part of the men's duel of wits, a game they play.

Dialogue emphasizes the close bond between Blackie and his assistant Runt, characters who are familiar from previous Boston Blackie movies. Not only do the two men work together, but they sleep together in the same room. They are together 24 hours a day. Sleeping scenes run through later Boetticher, often showing people sleeping in a group. After this dialogue about sleep early in the film, later we see Blackie and Runt sleeping in bed together.

A Working Class Film

One Mysterious Night is unusual among series crime films in that everyone in it seems so working class. Men stay in suits throughout the film: there are no evening clothes, which were de rigueur in many crime series movies. The cop uniforms are standard, if sharp, and there are no motorcycle cops or fancy police uniforms that run through other entries in the Boston Blackie series. These look like regular working cops, and they talk with each other about how tiring their work shifts are. Both of the female leads are conspicuously working women: a switchboard operator, and a reporter, the only female among the otherwise all-male crime reporters. There are other female switchboard operators who work with the heroine, and a woman who runs a cigar stand in the hotel. There is also a dignified Chinese waiter in a Chinese restaurant, who is seen briefly. Even the relatively affluent patrons of the restaurant, and visitors to the jewel exhibit, are firmly middle class people in suits and ties, not the rich society people who so often show up in Hollywood movie series.

Some earlier episodes of Boston Blackie had bits of left-wing politics. Confessions of Boston Blackie (Edward Dmytryk, 1941) talks about Boston Blackie stealing pearls from the rich, and handing them out to people on bread lines. One wonders if the relentlessly working class nature of One Mysterious Night is designed to make it a "proletarian film".

The jewel exhibit is to raise money for the war effort of the United Nations, a favorite term among left wingers to refer to the Allies as a group (this is not what we today think of as the UN, which had not yet been formed.)

Blackie himself is working for a tool manufacturing company. He is depicted as a "businessman", so the film is not anti-business.

Leather Jacket

Many Hollywood films, especially musicals, have the hero in ordinary clothes at the start, and get him increasingly dressed up through the course of the film, ending with the hero in evening clothes. Boetticher's One Mysterious Night (1944) takes a parallel but different approach. Blackie wears a suit in most of the film, but disguises himself as a uniformed messenger in a leather jacket at the end. The leather jacket is glamorous, like the evening clothes of a conventional film: but it is also distinctly working class looking.

The anonymous costume designer of One Mysterious Night must have liked the look, because a very similar leather jacket is worn by guest star Steve Cochran in Boston Blackie's Rendezvous (Arthur Dreifuss, 1945). Both jackets have a series of button fastenings up the front, and diagonal pockets; neither has any zippers.

Leather jackets were just becoming popular for men in this era, and One Mysterious Night (1944) is one of the earliest films known to me where it is worn as a fashion statement (as opposed to occasional jackets worn by cab drivers, pilots, fisherman, etc.). They are largely worn by tough working class good guys on the edge of the law, like Boston Blackie himself. There are hints in most of these films that there is something exciting and not quite respectable about men wearing such jackets - which probably made them more popular than ever in real life. Blackie is a reformed crook, the heroes of Railroaded! and 99 River Street are innocent but tough working men falsely accused of crimes, the hero of The Street With No Name is a government agent going undercover as a crook in a gang, etc. For a detailed list and history, see the article on Leather Jackets in Film.

In the pawnshop, a ground-level scene shows people's shoes. One can tell when shots of the killers' shoes are replaced by shots of the police: the police's black leather uniform shoes are shinier. It is an aspect of how spiffy the police uniforms as a whole are.

Revolving Poles

One Mysterious Night opens with a strange figure of style. A static street sign suddenly begins to revolve, then sinks down out of sight. I have never seen anything like this in any other film. It is really cool. It is a non-naturalistic effect, something that "stylizes" reality.

The street sign is on a large crossroads-style pole. And it gives way to a street scene that soon will be full of police, in striking formation. There are two other images in the film that also combine poles, revolving objects, and glamorized police.

At the gem show, the crooks steal a kid's pinwheel. This is a revolving object on a tall, pole-like stick. A kind-hearted and handsome policeman tries to help the kids out.

At the pawnshop, the police carry really long, black nightsticks. Once again, these include some good looking cops, in spit and polish police uniforms. The police do not spin these nightsticks at the pawnshop. They do have the nightsticks grasped in their hands.

But soon, in an alley, the crooks see and are scared by a giant shadow of a policeman. This shadow is indeed spinning his nightstick. It makes for an archetypal image of a policeman, gigantic, and with the pole-like nightstick in full rotary motion. This too is a figure of style, on the borders of non-naturalistic imagery.

Open Areas: Large Street Scenes and Rooms

Much of the action of One Mysterious Night takes place in large scale, open places. These include city streets, large exhibit rooms, the hotel assistant's large office, the pawnbroker's, and apartment living rooms. These open spaces, while purely urban, anticipate the large scale open landscape arenas of Boetticher's Westerns. They give plenty of room to stage action, have his characters move around, and allow sweeping camera movements with no obstructions.

Street scenes will recur in The Killer Is Loose and Buchanan Rides Alone, which also involve rapid movements of individuals along the streets.

Strange Shaped Spaces

Boetticher films often contain small, box-like spaces, which contain the characters. There are a few of these in One Mysterious Night, right at the start of Boetticher's career.

The newsstand at the hotel contains the woman who runs it.

The desk at the women's hotel contains the clerk.

The Chinese restaurant has a booth, built into the wall. Blackie and the switchboard operator have dinner there, seated inside the booth.

The woman reporter uses a phone booth.

At the end, the police ascend to the crooks' apartment through the hall staircase. This staircase is not shown through overhead or tilted angles, the way stairs are frequently (and gloriously) depicted in film noir. Boetticher instead uses a radically different approach. He shoots the upstairs hall and the staircase from the front. We see the hall, and we can see down the stairs, in a deep focus shot. Soon the staircase fills up with climbing policemen. The stairway forms a "box", a container for the men in it. This is one of Boetticher's boxes, three-dimensional spaces that contain people. And it is a strange shape: a hallway with a staircase leading down from it: a familiar sight, but actually geometrically quite odd and complex, once you come to think of it.

The fire escape down which the crooks flee is in a box shaped alley, tall and narrow. It connects with the rest of the world through a brick wall, joined at a non-90 degree angle. Boetticher will include more odd shaped alleys in The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond: another giant "box". The alley in The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond will also turn on a polygonal corner, rather than a 90 degree right angle. It too will feature a fire escape.

Blackie and his assistant get tied up by crooks, upside down on a Murphy bed. We see them hanging there, in the closet that contains the Murphy bed. In later Boetticher films, Rock Hudson will get tied up in Horizons West, and there are lots of captives in other Boetticher Westerns. Earlier, Blackie had been handcuffed to a chair at the police station by the inspector; and Blackie and the Inspector get tied up a third time, at the film's climax. Blackie himself uses handcuffs on his friend the police inspector, in the taxi.

Overhead Camera Angle

The Murphy bed scene includes an unusual overhead camera angle, something that will recur in later Boetticher films.

The Missing Juror

The Missing Juror (1944) is a mystery-suspense film.

Its plot about a crazed killer trying to murder twelve jurors, anticipates a bit the quest of the hero to kill seven murderers in Seven Men from Now. Another convict with murder as his goal will appear in The Killer Is Loose.

Plots about killing off jurors occurred in earlier prose mystery fiction: John Rhode's novel The Murders in Praed Street (1928), Stuart Palmer's short story "The Riddle of the Hanging Men" (1934) in his Hildegarde Withers: Uncollected Riddles.

Camera Movement

The Missing Juror contains several scenes in which the camera seemingly "goes through a wall" moving from room to room: Boetticher sometimes repeats the wall-movement, for example, at the steam bath. These movements are clearly designed to be exuberant.

Other camera movements have an "in and out" effect, moving to and from the viewer:

Some camera movements in the courtroom are also notable: A camera movement from a moving train is outstanding. We see through a door of a train, slowly pulling out of the station; the shot keeps the heroine walking on the platform outside of the train in view.

The shooting of the lying private eye is also in one long take, which has him going up to a corner, then moving back down the street again.


The hero uses a Dictaphone to record his news stories. The witnesses in the courtroom speak into a microphone they hold. Both are examples of Boetticher's interest in sound technology. The Dictaphone horn also seems like a phallic symbol.

The newspapermen get stories off a teletype.

The villain sets fire to his asylum room. This seems like a direct ancestor of a similar scene of "fire in an asylum room" in Behind Locked Doors (1948).

Boxes Containing Men

The Missing Juror has a number of Boetticher's box-like containers: None of these are irregular-shaped spaces, the way they often will be in later Boetticher.


Boetticher characters are always drinking liquids: they have an especial fondness for coffee. The Missing Juror shows female secretary Tex making and serving coffee to a group. It also has a scene at restaurant-bar Wally's Grotto, in which the hero has coffee, and a villainous private eye has liquor. One suspects there is a bit of an anti-alcohol statement in this.

The hero is attacked in a steam room, nearly killed, and winds up in the hospital. We see him drinking water, and his dialogue points out how much water he's been drinking. Although there is no further explanation, one suspects this refers to him being dehydrated by the steam room, and needing water. This is an extreme, and interesting, example of thirst in Boetticher.

Not Quite a Trickster

The early scenes have the hero negotiating with his former editor, getting stuff. The hero is depicted as a sly fox, who knows how to extract goodies. He has the "feel" of one of Boetticher's trickster characters. However, the reporter is not actually tricking the editor. He has simply brought the editor a good news story, and is using it to negotiate benefits. There is nothing actually tricky or dishonest about that.


Leading man Jim Bannon has a voice and demeanor that remind one of cowboy actor William "Wild Bill" Elliott. Both are highly macho men, who speak slowly and emphatically, and with the same sort of timbre to their voice.

One brief scene features giant William Hall as a cop guarding the villain. Hall, who once had a role as a leading man in The Spy Ring (Joseph H. Lewis, 1938), was now reduced to this sort of cameo. He looks great in his police uniform.


The reporter hero is in single-breasted, solid color suits throughout the film. He looks good in them, but his neat appearance is still less dressy than the double-breasted pinstripes we associate with 1940's noir. Like the hero of One Mysterious Night, the protagonist is dressed in a way that does not make him look upper class or well-to-do.

Escape in the Fog

Escape in the Fog (1945) is a spy thriller.

Race and Politics

The heroes of Escape in the Fog are trying to destroy the Japanese Occupation of China. Many Boetticher films feature heroes who are fighting against dictatorial control of towns, whether modern day or in the old West. Escape in the Fog extends this to a whole country.

The dignified, non-stereotyped Chinese agent is notable. Also unusual: although the heroes are working against the Japanese Occupation, no Japanese villains or characters are seen at all. Instead, the villains are all white: mainly Nazi agents, with a few American traitors. The filmmakers are making an unusually successful attempt to avoid racist stereotypes, and project positive images.

The heroine is also one of the good women in Boetticher who work on equal terms in a world of men. She was working on a hospital ship before it was blasted. Her trenchcoat looks a bit like men's clothing: something not uncommon in Boetticher heroines.

The heroine as played by the talented Nina Foch conveys intelligence. She is courageous, and morally committed. She also shows admirable determination. Perhaps most important, she eventually does some real detection, in her noticing that a ship passed under the bridge.

The sympathetic woman taxi driver is another working woman. She is played by a very young Shelley Winters, who projects personality in her brief role.

Psychological Warfare

The hero is a specialist in psychological warfare. He works on radio broadcasts fighting against Axis occupations in World War II. This perhaps links him to War of the Silver Kings, and its hero's public relations campaign against the town boss.

It also anticipates some deceptive ways in which the police use the media in The Killer Is Loose.

Unfortunately, the hero's actual mission in Escape in the Fog has nothing to do with these interesting skills.

The Spy Master

The good guy spy master is played by Otto Kruger, a patrician actor most often cast as smooth, wealthy villains. He was the rich, upper class American who was eager to support the Nazis in Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur (1943). Here once again he is playing a wealthy man who is plainly a representative of America's Old Money WASP elite. While Saboteur suggested that such men were right wing monsters and fascist sympathizers, Escape in the Fog implausibly implies such men are patriots, ready to do battle with America's enemies, and socially accept Chinese good guys into their palatial homes. No mention is made of all the well-to-do US businessmen whose financial dealings with Nazi Germany in the 1930's speeded Hitler's rise to power.

Kruger's wealth plays a role in the plot: only such a patrician would have a grandfather clock in his living room, and a butler who maintains it. Perhaps the character's wealth is mainly included, so that such a clock is plausible.

There is a long tradition in spy books and films: the hero is a virile young man who gets his orders from an upper class, older man who represents the patriarchal elite who runs society. The hero is therefore supposed to represent both Society and "good over evil" - or perhaps white male power. For example, see James Bond getting his orders from spy master M. Or the young spy hero who gets orders from the head of the Secret Service in Spione (Fritz Lang, 1928). I have always found this tradition morally, politically and socially dubious. It equates Society with wealth and patriarchy: a bad idea.

The scene with the hero getting his mission from Otto Kruger, seems like a direct expression of this tradition. However, Escape in the Fog does complicate this tradition, by showing a good guy Chinese agent in the conference with Kruger. This does affect the core tradition, which more ordinarily celebrates upper class white patriarchal power in its most naked form.

The scenes throughout Escape in the Fog, with the heroine trying to get male authority figures to take her ideas seriously, also complicates the traditional spy film idea of social goodness being represented by a patriarchal member of wealthy white male elites.

Escape in the Fog contains an allegory: traditional American social power, centered in wealthy WASP male elites like Kruger, needs to broaden itself to include other races and women. This liberal, integrationist point of view will run through Boetticher's work.

Escape in the Fog uses a traditional scene in spy films, the hero getting his orders from a wealthy elite male - but insistently complicates this tradition to convey new ideas about racial and sexual integration.

Sexuality and Social Power

I mentioned earlier that in traditional spy films, the hero is a virile young man. For example, such virility is an important part of the characterization of James Bond and the young spy hero of Spione. Traditionally, the hero's male sexual potency is implicitly blessed by his patriarchal boss, in the scene where the hero gets his orders from the spy chief. The idea is that his sexuality is endorsed by the patriarchy that runs society. It becomes part of the patriarchy's power.

Aspects of this idea survive in Escape in the Fog. The hero is indeed sexually virile. And he first meets the heroine, by breaking down the door of her bedroom while she is sleeping: surely, a scene that relates male sexuality to male power.

However, in James Bond films, women are sex objects whom the hero uses for sexual pleasure. They are not seen as having human dignity or value.

By contrast, the heroine of Escape in the Fog repeatedly asserts herself as an agent, not an object. She has brains, and uses them to perform detective work: a key definition of intelligence and human dignity and agency in detective films.

Once agin, Escape in the Fog is re-using a traditional trope of spy films, only to subvert it and broaden it, to suggest that women have brains and a role in running society.

Escape in the Fog is integrationist: it doesn't attack male virility, or try to strip the male hero from his good guy status. But it insists that male power must be shared, with women getting a role in running society. Similarly, it insists that other races, such as the Chinese, be given a role in the running of society.

Headquarters and Social Power

In traditional spy films, the elite spy chief's headquarters is seen as the ultimate safe, protected place, and a symbol of Government and social power and organization. It is deep in the center of some very secure government location. The spy chief gives his orders there to the young spy hero, remote from harm. Then the young hero goes out into the world, where he faces danger from enemy agents.

For example. the Wikipedia article on M (James Bond) states: "Academic Paul Stock argues that M's office is a metonym for England and a stable point from which Bond departs on a mission, whilst he sees M as being an iconic representative of England and Englishness." It cites: Stock, Paul (2009). "Dial 'M' for metonym: Universal Exports, M's office space and empire". In Lindner, Christoph. The James Bond Phenomenon: a Critical Reader. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

At first, Escape in the Fog seems to embody the same idea. But this turns into another traditional spy concept that gets subverted in Escape in the Fog. The Port Authority chief's office looks like at first precisely like one of these ultra-safe locations where Government and Societal authority issues its orders.

SPOILERS. But later on in the film, the Nazi villain sneaks into the office at night, and uses the chief's desk and phone to impersonate the Port Authority chief.

Perhaps I am pushing the idea too far, but Escape in the Fog might be suggesting that what looks like a center of power, a chief's office, might actually be a point of weakness and vulnerability. There is perhaps an allegory here suggesting that concentrated power in a point of weakness, not strength. By contrast, spreading power among many different people (inevitably which would include women and many races), will be a source of social strength.


The packet is an archetypal MacGuffin: something key to the plot, but whose contents don't really matter. It perhaps relates to the big sums of money that drive other Boetticher plots, such as the strongbox filled with gold in Seven Men from Now.

The plot suffers from being a series of episodes, in which both sides keep battling for possession of the all-important packet. This construction keeps the story from building any momentum or flow, or involving the viewer with any substance attached to the events. Still, many of the events are interesting, even if they are thinly connected. The events are also richly plotted, full of detail. A lot happens, for an hour of film.

In other Boetticher, the big sums of money are just subplots, that are integrated into more complex stories. The strongbox in Seven Men from Now is an example. It plays a key role, but it is also part of a mix that involves the hero's murdered wife, and intricate personal relationships.


Escape in the Fog is a highly technological film. The hero is a specialist in radio, then among the most advanced technology of the day. We see a police radio room. The Navy is experimenting with a radio-controlled ship.

The bad guys employ bugging. They also know how to spy on telephone numbers others dial.

The lens projection is a cool device.

The numerous clocks are interesting imagery.

Information Centers

The good guys have a series of headquarters. These headquarters are filled with information, and also ways to communicate information: The bad guys hang out in a room that seems like a parody of such information centers: a shop filled with hundreds of clocks. This seems like a surrealist variant on the information centers used by the good guys. This bad guys' room is less functional than the heroes' information centers - but it is impressive anyway.

Boxes Containing Men

Escape in the Fog has a number of Boetticher's box-like containers: The spy master's living room has bookcases on angles in the corners. This gives it the shape of a large polygonal box.

Phallic Objects

There are fewer poles in Escape in the Fog than in other Boetticher. The flashlight carried by the cop on the bridge, and the candles used as sealing wax by the good guy spies, might be examples. Although they are a bit smaller than most Boetticher poles.

The putters carried by two golfers at the resort might also be examples, although they play no role in the plot. The golfers are a male-female couple, rather than a group of men, which would be more typical of Boetticher.

The inn has a lamp post out front.

Camera Movement

Some of the most complex camera movements occur in the good guy spy master's living room: The camera also oscillates with the hero in his room, as he walks back and forth to the telephone.

Some camera movements go from left-to-right:

Some camera movements with the villains go from right-to-left: A shot moves left-to-right from a phone booth across a hall, finds the couple entering on the right, then moves right-to-left, following them walking to the phone booth.

Vertical camera movements go from the hero down to the message on his table, then back up to the hero again: all in one shot.


Escape in the Fog has some problems. The dream prophecy promotes paranormal ideas. Science has thoroughly discredited paranormal concepts.


Columbia Pictures B-movies of the era liked to show men in dressy, fancy uniforms. Escape in the Fog keeps to this tradition. First we see a doorman in a spiffy uniform. Then sailors and Naval officers. Finally, there are large groups of policemen, including a motorcycle cop. While the doorman is a solitary figure, the sailors, Naval officers and police form men in groups.

The motorcycle cop's tall boots are among the few leather clothes in the movie. He wears leather gloves too. The policeman on the bridge wears one of the black rain slickers that run through Boetticher.

Assigned to Danger

Assigned to Danger (1948) is a crime thriller.

The Facade

The opening (right under the initial credits) shows a rectilinear facade of buildings on a city street. The facade makes a fascinating series of rectangular patterns, like other such Boetticher facades.

Soon, the camera will shift to another location, to the right. But after some action, we will return to the original street and facade. Now it is framed differently, so that just a subsection of it appears. And it is crowded into a somewhat different region of the screen. This produces another interesting, Mondrian-like composition of rectangles. It is related to the opening shot - but different.

Capture and Shooting: Staging

When the police corner the criminals, we see them in a large empty street. The camera is at a a slightly elevated angle.

The Young Doctor

The young doctor is an enterprising man, who is trying to make himself known to everyone in the small town. The film pokes fun at his eager self-promotion.

In a benevolent way, the doctor anticipates Robert Ryan's villain in Horizons West, who is trying to take over much of Texas. Both are ambitious young go-getters, who are trying to take over a territory.

Both men have geographical information about their territory:

However, the doctor is a strictly benign person, not a crook like Ryan. He is simply trying to take over from an older doctor who is retiring, and with the retiring doc's permission. He is a comic-but-honest man on the make, not a criminal.

The noble doctor in Decision at Sundown leads a revolt of the good townspeople against the evil town dictator. Like the young doctor in Assigned to Danger, he too is trying to "take over" a town, in a benevolent way.


Some of the police are in black leather uniform jackets, during the scene where Nip is shot.

The young doctor (future writer Dean Riesner) wears a white medical uniform.

Power Centers

Assigned to Danger has a number of offices, where good-guy men exercise social power: The hero gets his orders from the older, patriarchal authority figure in the insurance office, at the film's start. Such orders from authority figures are common in spy dramas and many thrillers.

Long Takes

When the surviving crooks go to the woman's apartment, the scene inside is shot in one long take. The camera eventually moves to the left, then back to the right, then to the center again, then to the right. It is a complex piece of staging.

Other long takes:

The scene where the couple discover Frankie is dead, is shot in two long takes. There is a quiet break to a second shot, right after the discovery.

Behind Locked Doors

Behind Locked Doors (1948) is a mystery thriller set in an insane asylum.

Behind Locked Doors recalls Escape in the Fog:

The asylum wall also anticipates the wall of the farm family the escaped convict will kill in The Killer Is Loose. Both are lonely walls with a closed door in them. Both are the setting of eerie suspense scenes.

Dictatorship and Revolt

The asylum has features of some of the dictatorial regimes regularly criticized in Boetticher: As in other Boetticher, the protagonists work to undercut the regime. Behind Locked Doors is unusual in that both a man and a woman are lead figures, attacking the regime.

When the heroine goes to a social authority figure for help, the state medical examiner, he refuses to help. Instead, support actually comes when a decent worker at the asylum revolts. One suspects there is a political allegory in this, with worker resistance being a key to social change - and recognizing that the upper classes will stick together and resist change.

The hero's roommate and fellow inmate is the main source of information about conditions in the asylum. He can stand for political dissenters in society. He anticipates the honest doctor who criticizes the town boss in Decision at Sundown.


The hero and heroine both have trickster features, running deceitful scams to gain entrance into the asylum. The hero also manipulates the firebug to search the asylum, in another "trick".

The heroine is another Boetticher character who uses disguise.

Women and Gender Roles

The heroine is one of the strong working women in Boetticher, who take part in a man's world in a position of equality.

The crooked judge's girlfriend is likely a woman he financially supports as a mistress, although this is not discussed explicitly. She is wearing the fur coat that was a film indicator of a "kept woman" in that era, whether a mistress or a rich man's trophy wife. Boetticher tends to disapprove of women who are "personal property of wealthy men".

Men in Groups

The hero and his two roommates at the asylum are examples of Boetticher men who sleep in groups.

Both the asylum inmates and guards have common uniforms, also a Boetticher tradition. So do the police who appear at the end.

Box-Like Spaces for Men

The rooms at the asylum are examples of Boetticher's box-like spaces containing men. This is especially true of the cells in the Violent Ward upstairs. All of the rooms seem simple geometrically, unlike some of the regions in other Boetticher.


The staircase is the entrance to the Violent Ward, which contains the key information about the crime plot. So the staircase is closely linked to the plot: any time someone gets close to the Violent Ward, they have to pass through the staircase. This is true of both crooks and good guys. So there are several dramatic scenes on the staircase.

Staircases are also a central film noir image. The prominence of the staircase in Behind Locked Doors helps establish the movie as firmly linked to film noir traditions. At the finale, the shadows from the staircase grillwork are prominent on the walls: also a film noir tradition.

Long Takes

The hall scene outside the hero's office near the start, is shot in one take. It's medium-length.

Much of the early scene between the hero and heroine in her hotel room, is shot in a long take. A high point is when the hero turns around, then lights his lighter for her in a sexy gesture. Having the hero turn around also highlights his broad shoulders and back, duded up in his sharp pinstripe suit.

When the heroine goes back to the state psychiatrist for help, the scene is in one take.


The door-letterer who paints the hero's name on his office door, carries what seems to be a yardstick, perhaps used in his work. Signs, especially in bars, are conspicuous in some other Boetticher movies. Here we have a man who makes them.

Leather Furniture

Some Boetticher films show swaggering men sitting in leather chairs. The leather furniture in Behind Locked Doors is not as linked to such swaggering characters. The state psychiatrist's office is full of it - but he is a subdued, professional acting man. It does give the swaggering private eye hero a chance to sit on his leather couch, and make cheeky gestures of peering out under his hat.

The sinister doctor who runs the asylum also has a leather chair.

Richard Carlson

Richard Carlson is best known for his 1950's work, where he played mature, thoughtful, intelligent men, often in responsible positions, such as scientists. In Behind Locked Doors, we first see him in a decidedly different kind of role, as a smart-aleck private eye. He seems to be enjoying himself, or at least acting that way, all dressed up in one of the sharp 1940's pinstriped suits of a film noir hero. He flirts with the heroine, makes wisecracks, and in general behaves like one of Boetticher's comic tricksters. These scenes seem designed as a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the audience, suggesting how much fun it would be to be a private eye.

However, once the hero takes on his undercover role at the asylum, this aspect falls away. The hero gets in sober clothes, and what seems to be Carlson's real screen persona emerges: sober, intelligent and responsible.

Dickie Moore

A young resident at the asylum who doesn't speak is played by former child star Dickie Moore, who played a mute character just a year before in Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947). While the resident conspicuously doesn't speak in Behind Locked Doors, the film does not make clear whether he is mute, or too emotionally traumatized to speak.

Killer Shark

Killer Shark (1950) is about shark fishermen. It is grim, repulsive, uninventive, and just plain awful: likely Boetticher's worst film.

Links to The Bullfighter and the Lady

Killer Shark anticipates The Bullfighter and the Lady:

Boetticher Subjects: The Opening

Before the action of Killer Shark descends into total grimness, the opening contains some relatively light-hearted events that recall Boetticher traditions: Towards the middle of the film, an evil barman in a sinister cantina serves as another trickster, supplying the hero with a rotten crew. He is much more evil than the more light-hearted trickster who lures the hero up to the crow's nest.

Throughout the film, financial negotiations play a role, both in hiring and paying fishermen, and timing the sale of sharks to market prices. Aside from the hero and his father, the fishermen are all working class men.

Cooking and Gender Roles

Killer Shark has no less than two men who cook. Both are professional cooks: one is the ship's cook, the other runs a small cantina. They even have a discussion, in which the ship's cook denounces the cantina owner's food as lousy.

The ship's cook is called Maestro. As he explains, it is a term of respect.

Box-Like Spaces Containing Men

The dock has a stairwell. It is a box-like space enclosing the outdoor stairs.

The bunks on ship are also box-like spaces containing men. So is the entire cramped cabin room containing the bunks. This room has a ladder along one wall, ladders and steep stairs being fairly common in Boetticher's box-like spaces.

The Bullfighter and the Lady

The Bullfighter and the Lady (1951) is the first of three films Boetticher made about bullfighting.

Curved Shapes

In The Bullfighter and the Lady there is a restaurant with many curved arches. These low, wide arches are constantly kept in the background of the shots, adding to the composition. Other shots show the circular corrida itself. The arches seem parabolic; the angled shots of the corrida form an ellipse on the screen. This fondness for conic sections is a structural motif of the film.


There is a camera movement near the end, when the hero moves forward endlessly down the tunnel, on the way to the arena. He passes many other bullfighters. They are a Boetticher group of men dressed alike.

Soon, the matadors enter the arena, in a geometric procession.

There is a striking overhead pan, showing the car leaving the arena. This is one of several Boetticher shots from a steep overhead angle - at its start, at least.

The Cimarron Kid

The Cimarron Kid (1952) is Boetticher's first Western.

The Stables

The scene in the stables is one of Boetticher's tense, suspenseful confrontation scenes.

The stable stalls where the gang hides out, are some of Boetticher's box-like structures containing men.


The hero and heroine walk down the sidewalk of a street in the town of Boonesville. This is one of Boetticher's gently sloping streets. Periodically, they step down to lower and lower levels of the sidewalk.

Eventually they reach a store that sells ladies' goods. This has a tilted shop window, that reflects the street.

Two men pursue them. These a are small group of men who dress alike. a Boetticher tradition. These men wear dark, three-piece suits with vests, similar string ties with white dress shirts, and different but "serious looking" hats.

Eventually the hero and heroine leave the store, and follow the reverse path back up the sidewalk by which they arrived.

The Plummer Hotel and Round House

The round house sequence is a brilliant scene. It is notable for its visual style.

It starts in the street in the front of the Plummer Hotel (first half of the sequence). Then it moves to the railroad Round House (second half of the sequence).

The setting embodies many of the architectural motifs and approaches that run through Boetticher's films:

When the Sheriff and his men emerge and march down the street towards the trapped heroes, they form one of the organized processions in Boetticher.

Red-Green Color in the Plummer Sequence

The events just before the round house take place in the porch of the Plummer Hotel, and the street in front of it. They are largely designed in a red-and-green color scheme. Red and green are Complementary Colors, and are widely used together in design, including film.

Much of the Hotel porch is painted green. There are also green trees and vegetation.

The road is red: perhaps it has been painted. The hay wagon in the distance looks reddish; so do some of the wagons in the distance, pulled across the road. One of the wagons has red wheels.

Rose is in a pink blouse. Her outfit will soon color-harmonize with the striking shade of off-red with which the round house is painted. It is an eye-pooping display of color.

A man on the porch wears a blue shirt. This is an exception to the dominant red-and-green color scheme.

Red-Blue Color in the Round House Sequence

The Round House sequence is mainly in a dazzling bright off-red, with which the buildings are painted.

But it also draws on blue clothes worn by some of the law men. Audie Murphy's gray shirt can also seem a bit blue-ish in this context.

The "bridge" with the tracks, has red streaks, perhaps painted into the wood.

The green trees, so prominent in the Plummer Hotel road just before, largely are absent in the Road House episode.

Horses and Color

Heroes Audie Murphy and James Best ride horses that have very similar markings and colors. Such matched costumes or horses are a Boetticher motif.

James Best is in shades of brown, that color-harmonize with his horse. Brown is not a dressy color, and the brown outfit suggests (accurately) that Best is not the film's hero.

Audie Murphy, the film's lead, is in a dressier gray shirt and black hat.

Horizons West


The great beauty of Horizons West (1952) as a color film can not be overemphasized. Both the clothes and the sets are richly colorful. The subtle colors make harmonies with each other. As in the musical, the Western offers a chance to escape into a different world, one in which every color is rich and vibrant. Whether it's Julie Adams' fiery red dress and headdress, or Rock Hudson's purple leather vest, the colors are at the center of visual interest at all times. They are the most important things on the screen at any moment. It is not individual colors alone, but their combination into color harmonies and compositions that is striking.

The General's comic opera uniform is in red and blue. "Red and blue" make a vibrating color scheme, one that is busy-looking and flamboyant to the eye. Rad-and-blue is not seen that often in films, or real life clothes, because it tends to overwhelm the eye and everything in sight. However, it is comically appropriate for the character. It gives him genuine flair, making a real splash.

Civil Rights

Robert Ryan's gray underscores his pride in being a former Confederate officer, a pride the film constantly suggests is misplaced. Boetticher's films offer a consistently liberal commentary on Civil Rights, the most important political and social issue of their day. We see the US Army's prideful, disastrous attack on wronged Native Americans in Seminole, and the discrimination against the young Mexican hero of Buchanan Rides Alone. The fact that villainous Ryan is a product of the Confederacy suggests that there is something wrong with both.

The sinister rich people in Horizons West employ black servants. These servants are presented in a dignified, non-stereotyped way. The film is perhaps linking villainy and corruption in the rich, with the system of racial oppression prevalent in old Texas.

Ryan's gray suits are close to modern-day business suits. They barely have any Western feel. One is even pinstriped, like a modern suit. If the gray color echoes the Confederacy, it also links his character to "business", a world where gray is still the preferred color for men's suits. There is a satire of business in Horizons West, a linking of business to both corrupt men like Ryan, and perhaps also the evils of the Confederacy.

Ryan's white shirt at the end is also just a dress shirt, the kind a modern-day man might wear with a business suit. It too has little or no Western feel.


It is fun to see Dennis Weaver in the role of Dandy, a flashily dressed henchman of Ryan's. Weaver is not the first actor who comes to mind when thinking of screen dudes, after all the naive types he's played on TV shows. But he really goes to town with this role. Boetticher has a fondness for villainous men whose pride causes them to be dressed to the teeth: see Legs Diamond, or the bad guys in Buchanan Rides Alone and Decision at Sundown.

Dandy's whole life seems bound up in being Ryan's Number 2. This is perhaps an example of a male bonding character. However, many supporting characters in Hollywood films in general often lack romantic relationships: there just isn't time to work a romance for them into the plot.

The gifted Weaver appeared in lots of good movies. He starred in one of the best of all TV movies, Ishi: The Last of His Tribe (Robert Ellis Miller, 1978), and he also appeared in Orson Welles' Touch of Evil (1958) and Curtis Harrington's What's the Matter with Helen? (1971), both classics. Weaver plays another well-dressed man in What's the Matter with Helen?.

A Dictator's Rise

Horizons West is basically a gangster film, although it is set in the old West. Ryan's character rises to power through illegal means, just like a gangster in 1930's Chicago, and he has a group of henchmen who aid him in his task. As in many gangster films, we see the anguish of the honest family who love him, but who are opposed to his crooked ways. Robert Ryan resembles the later Legs Diamond. Both are well dressed smoothies who both charm and cheat their way to the top.

Ryan gets both a crooked lawman and crooked judge in his employ. This played a bit for comic effect. Ryan seems like one of Boetticher's trickster characters, someone who enjoys clever schemes. Both lawman and judge seem like Ryan 's creations, men who work for him and who he has caused to be put in power, rather than honest officials he has corrupted - although the film is not explicit on this point. The Marshal of Austin plays this comedy to the hilt, clearly enjoying being a fake cop. He gets to wear the famous Texas lawman's badge, later associated with the Texas Rangers.

The judge anticipates the judge in the Maverick episode War of the Silver Kings. Both men are under the influence of the trickster protagonist. In Horizons West this is corruption, pure and simple. In the comic War of the Silver Kings, the hero Maverick is a good guy trickster character, just as wily and any "bad" trickster, but on the side of social justice. His influence on the judge is more subtle, honest and complex than Ryan's, but with an insidious side in both films.

There are other ways in which Ryan resembles Maverick to come in War of the Silver Kings:

Women and Gender

Julie Adams plays a glamorous woman who wants to be supported by rich men. She is a villainess, and will collaborate in crimes. Her clothes are some of the fanciest seen in any Western, full of elaborate feminine frills. This symbolizes her embodiment of "traditional femininity".

Sally (Judith Braun) is the direct opposite. She works for her living, and succeeds in a man's world. She is a good woman. She also dresses in men's clothes on the job, although she wears dresses to parties. Even in Westerns, in which cowgirls often dress sensibly, these are mannish-looking clothes.

Food and Drink

Cooking, food and drink play roles in Horizons West, as they do in other Boetticher. In this film, cooking seems pretty simply the province of the mother (the wonderful Frances Bavier, later famous as Mayberry's Aunt Bee). Much is made of her cornbread. However, there is a sequence of men bringing in an anniversary cake: this perhaps links men to cooking, a subject that is more prominent in other Boetticher films.

The good characters have family meals together.

By contrast, villainous protagonist Ryan is frequently shown drinking. Other villains, like Julie Adams and Dandy, also drink. They are among Boetticher's typical thirsty characters. A camera movement tracks Ryan and Dandy down a bar. Saloons show up most regularly in Boetticher's crooked, dictatorial-run towns, rather than more honest places. So do card games. Boetticher apparently sees a link between vice like gambling and saloons, and political corruption.

Geometry of Spaces

Robert Ryan and/or Julie Adams are in oddly shaped spaces, a Boetticher tradition: The corral with the shoot-out near the end is also irregularly polygonal.

Robert Ryan and Julie Adams meet in a room with corner book cases. While they are not actually enclosed, the bookcases give the corner a box-like feel. Corner book cases also appear in Escape in the Fog.

Burr plays poker, twice, on circular tables in the corners of square looking rooms.

Burr's mansion exterior is one of the rectilinear buildings sometimes found in Boetticher. Its numerous brick columns, as rectilinear as the rest of the building, underscore the severe geometry.

Some buildings in Austin have arched doorways or decoration outside. And inside some offices, we can look out through windows and see these arches. Boetticher emphasizes these rounded arches in his shots.


Boetticher often follows the standard Hollywood practice, of framing actors against different background regions. For example, in their early meeting, Ryan is framed against a store window, while Julie Adams is shown against an alley with a staircase. (Ryan's huge yellow leather gauntlets are also conspicuous, part of Boetticher's emphasis on leather clothes.) After Julie Adams' carriage drives off, we see the now full-figure Ryan framed against a narrower store window, one that emphasizes the verticals of his figure. His gauntlets are now framed against adjacent panels.

There are more unusual framings, as well. When Julie Adams warns Ryan in his hotel room, his bare-chested figure is outlined against two picture frames on the wall. One frame just sticks out the tiniest bit past his chest. Another frames the lower part of his head and neck. One winders if these frames have been placed purposively, to enable this effect. Meanwhile, a lamp on the wall helps isolate Adams.

In the corner bookcase scene, Ryan is standing just in front of the angle where the cases meet in the corner, a strong vertical line. It helps emphasize the vertical qualities of his figure.


Poles play less of a role in Horizons West than in some Boetticher:


Seminole (1953) is a Western. It takes place in Florida in 1835, which is not in the Western part of the United States. But its story of conflict between Native Americans and the US Army is squarely in the Western genre.

Civil Rights

Seminole is one of the most trenchant pro-Civil Rights films of its era. 1950's Westerns often explored Civil Rights in general, by depicting relations between whites and Native Americans. Seminole is unusually thorough in this regard, touching on an exceptionally wide range of racial themes.

SPOILER. The finale has a great moral, celebrating Osceola for loving all of mankind. It is an expression of universal love and non-violence. It recalls Gandhi, and anticipates the soon-to-emerge US Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King. The moral is unusually trenchant, achieving a deep level of thought. It helps us model our own behavior.

Other Boetticher films also contain closing morals about the importance of love, notably The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond.


Boetticher films often show a town in the grip of a town boss or gangster. These stories evoke sinister dictators, and stand as a condemnation of dictators and their power. Boetticher can show these gangsters' rise and fall.

Seminole is both related to these tales, and different from them. The Major is in command of almost all of frontier Florida. His power has little to check it, and his arbitrary control resembles other Boetticher dictators. He is also as selfish, callous and rotten in his behavior as Boetticher's gangsters. Like them, he is vastly more concerned with his personal advancement, than the ugly effect his rule has on those under his control.

But he differs from Boetticher's gangsters in that his power was given him by the US Army and Government. He didn't claw his way to the top through criminal means. He instead seems like a "typical" example of military rule, military occupation, and the war-mongering mentality. Seminole implicitly compares all of these to dictatorship, and condemns them.

Just as gangster/town boss Robert Ryan in Horizons West has a big wall map of Texas, showing the extent of his criminal empire, so does the Major in Seminole have a wall map of Florida in his office. He uses it to explain his strategy. His arrogance in expressing on this map how he wants vast populations living in Florida moved and disposed of, is a chilling embodiment of overreach and the horrors of military occupation. (There is also a wall map of the United States, which plays no direct role in the plot. Like his picture of George Washington, it simply conveys that this is a US Government office, and a center of state power.)

The Major puts one of his own men (hero Rock Hudson) under surveillance, having Hudson spied on. Such surveillance is associated with totalitarian regimes: in 1953, audiences would associate this with the Gestapo and the KGB. Most audience members would find such surveillance to be chillingly anti-democratic.

Women and Gender

The heroine is another Boetticher woman who works in a man's world on equal terms. She runs a trading post.

She has a woman servant who cooks for her. Her offer of food to the hero is depicted as a form of courtship. This is a fairly conventional linking of women and food, unlike some other Boetticher films.


Boetticher films often show men being thrust into water against their will. Such scenes range from the comic to the sinister. Seminole is especially rich in such water scenes. The central section of the film is a long trek into the swamp, by the US soldiers. We get a slapstick scene, where the Major stumbles deep into the water, thus ruining the spit-and-polish uniform he is obsessed with.

More sinister are the events that engulf Gerard (James Best). He moves through a series of terrible disasters involving submersion.

The callous treatment by the Major of Gerard, reveals the full depth of the Major's anti-humane, war-crazed attitude.

James Best is a gifted actor who never became a star. The working class and Southern farmer aspects that are instantly conveyed by Best's persona, probably kept him out of most leading man roles. But they are big assets in Seminole, where they mark Best's character as a typical enlisted man on a lower social and power level from the officers deciding his fate. Seminole stands as a rebuke to the military system where officers have undemocratic power over enlisted men.

When the rains come towards the end of the picture, it is more of the wet weather that sometimes runs through Boetticher.

One character moves into the water voluntarily. The Seminole scout who fights with Rock Hudson at the start, escapes by diving into the water and disappearing. This anticipates Dobie's vigorous dive and swim in Comanche Station.


Messages that are intercepted or altered sometimes play a role in Boetticher. Nothing this extreme happens in Seminole, but there are some mild incidents that might be related:

The Finale

The finale is remarkably dramatic. The carrying of the body relates to the burying scenes in other Boetticher. It is also one of the well-staged processions that appear in Boetticher films.

Box-Like Spaces Containing Men

The pit used as a prison in the final scenes, is an archetypal example of that Boetticher construction, a "large box-like space containing men". Like several such Boetticher spaces, it allows men to climb around in it: it has a ladder.

The pit is less "odd-shaped" or irregular than some Boetticher spaces. It is a perfect rectilinear region. (But then, the entire fort is one of Boetticher's rectilinear buildings).

The fireplace at the trading posts is certainly box-shaped. But humans do not stand inside it. Instead, people see through it. The heroine gets her first glance at the hero, looking through it. He is framed by the space - but not inside it.

When Hudson leaves the trading post, he ducks under the fairly low hitching post outside. It's not a box-shaped space: it's just a rail. But it's a striking image, and perhaps related to the actual box-like spaces that run through Boetticher films.

Rectilinear Building Exteriors

The wall of the fort is featured prominently, especially in the final scenes. While it has some diagonal lines, it is mainly one of Boetticher's rectilinear facades. Boetticher often shoots the wall, so that it is largely parallel to the frame of the image. This brings out the geometric aspects of the wall.

The fort wall has two sides: one outside the fort, and one inside. Seminole shows the inside wall far more, especially in those crucial late scenes.

The fort gates are doors with a bolt, a Boetticher favorite. The doors have some diagonal lines in their upper parts, so they are not as purely rectilinear as doors-and-bolts in other Boetticher films.


Boetticher films often feature pole-like objects, which are likely phallic symbols. Seminole is full of them. The Native Americans carry lances, which they dramatically plunge into the ground, spears and long knives, and use arrows. The US Army soldiers carry long guns, wear swords, and an officer carries what seems to be a swagger stick.

Cannons are carried on the expedition, and the Major's relentless concern with them suggests the Major is obsessed with phallic display. This most likely stems from the dictatorial Major's search for power.

Scenes show the Army men elaborately cleaning their guns: the Major has an obsession with sharp spit-and-polish uniforms and gear. This shot is vivid, with soldier after soldier polishing up a very long gun. There are also scenes of sharpening swords, and ostentatiously strapping them on.

The men are often in phallic headgear. The US Army soldiers wear huge hats in the shape of truncated cones, which in turn have plumes on top: two layers of tall jutting hat. These are elegant and dressy, and are closer to fancy display uniforms, than the sort of functional hats often worn in Westerns set in later eras. Some of the Native Americans, especially Kajeck, wear elaborately plumed headdresses.

The hero is named "Lance".

There is also a flag pole in various Army offices.

Red-Blue Color Scheme

When the expedition leaves the fort, it is lugging cannon. The cannon seem blue-ish; the soldiers' uniforms are blue; the ground in red-ish. This produces one of Boetticher's favorite color schemes, "red and blue".

Red-Blue-Yellow: Colors in the Finale

Red, blue and yellow are the three primary colors. They are often thought to go well together, in design, painting and film. Much of the finale of Seminole is in red-blue-yellow.

The final stage of the trial centers on the men's dress Army uniforms. These are mainly blue, but have huge yellow epaulettes, giving them broad areas of yellow. They are worn with red sashes. A blue-and-yellow US map is on the wall, color harmonizing with the uniforms. The US flag is bright red and blue. The map frame can seem a bit reddish.

At the outdoor finale, Army uniforms are once again prominent. But these are not dress uniforms, and have no red sashes or other red aspects. They are mainly blue with a little yellow, lacking the huge epaulettes. The ground of the fort and the wooden walls can be seen as brown - or perhaps as a bit reddish. Still this hardly makes a full red-blue-yellow harmony.

The arrival of the Seminole changes this dramatically. Kajeck is in bright red costume, paint and hair. He completes the color harmony in a spectacular way. The shades of red are fascinating. His sleeves also have blue elements. The other Seminole also are in clothes mainly consistent with the red-blue-yellow scheme. The color becomes vividly rich and varied, within this overall color scheme.

The big exception to red-blue-yellow is the heroine. She is in a green dress. This makes her stand out from everyone else. During much of the scene, we only get glimpses of her, not enough to affect the overall scheme. But at the very end, she and the hero form the key persons shown. With the hero in blue and the heroine in green, we move to a different color pattern in these final moments.

The Native American Costumes

The Seminole clothes are in spectacular color. They make an eye-catching display of color in every scene they are in. The face paint is richer in color and design than most of the conventional "war paint" seen in Hollywood Westerns.

The body and face paint worn by Kajeck (Hugh O'Brian) is also spectacular. The handsome O'Brien displays this to advantage, with his muscular physique.

O'Brian is not the only one who gets to display his bare chest. Hero Rock Hudson has a poultice tied to his chest after being shot with an arrow. The fastenings are another, mild example of a Boetticher hero being tied up.

Leather Clothes

Much is made of the big black leather boots the US Army officers wear. Even in the swamp, the Major has them shined. They are carried over to him in a conspicuous scene.

The heroine's first glimpse of the hero after a long separation, is of his boots, seen through the fireplace. She instantly recognizes him. Having the hero equated with his boots is a witty conceit. It suggests that the sexuality suggested by the sharp boots is part of the hero's masculine appeal.

As with Robert Ryan in Horizons West, we see the hero's uniform gauntlets. Their cuffs seem to be leather.

The Man from the Alamo

The Man from the Alamo (1953) is a Western.

Military Bullying

The hero is relentlessly tormented by both Army officers and civilian war workers, for his alleged cowardice. It is a horrendous persecution. Such persecution activities are not discussed as a "institution" by the film - but certainly there is a skepticism expressed about such things.

Similarly, in the modern-day crime thriller The Killer Is Loose, Wendell Corey has been mercilessly hounded and ridiculed by his former Sergeant, during the war. It is part of Corey's motivation, and has perhaps warped his life and personality.

No one in authority will believe Nina Foch in Escape in the Fog. Perhaps similarly, no one with believe Carlos in The Man from the Alamo. Both characters are outsiders and minorities (a woman in Escape in the Fog, a Mexican-American in The Man from the Alamo), trying to convince military authority. Both characters are telling the truth, but find it hard to convince others.

Box-Like Spaces Containing Men

The interior wall of the Alamo is irregular. It includes a sloping ramp. Perhaps the entire Alamo is one of Boetticher's "strange-shaped spaces containing men".


The opening scenes showing defiant fighters at the Alamo are full of phallic symbols: The knife polished by the black man, rifles, a canon used to convey defiance. Finally, men try to rescue a flag whose pole is broken.


The fighters at the Alamo are in brownish, bedraggled costumes. When the enemy messenger shows up, he is in a startlingly dressy uniform, making a total contrast. These clothes tell much about the resources of the two sides.

The Mexican uniform is in that favorite Boetticher combination, red-and-blue.

Several of the Alamo fighters are in that Boetticher favorite, leather clothes. This includes the hero's leather coat, and a buckskin outfit from Tennessee. Soon, Hugh O'Brian shows up in his fancy buckskin uniform.

The Killer Is Loose

Short Story

The Killer Is Loose (1956) is based on a short story of the same title "The Killer Is Loose" by brothers John and Ward Hawkins, (The Saturday Evening Post, June 13, 1953). It is a fairly faithful adaptation, preserving the essential structure of the plot. The Saturday Evening Post was an enormously popular and prestigious market for fiction in this era, and it is not surprising to see a tale from it adapted for the movies. The story is reprinted in the anthology Best Detective Stories of the Year 1954 edited by David C. Cooke.

The Hawkins' story precedes Joseph Hayes' novel The Desperate Hours (1954), which Hayes made into a play (1955) and film (1955).

Boetticher Subjects

The Killer Is Loose anticipates Seven Men from Now, centering on a man trying to track down his wife's killers. Both men bear guilt for their wife's fate.

Poole the criminal is also an example of a Boetticher trickster character. He enjoys tricking the prison guards and Highway Patrol - although this is much more sinister than the cops tricked by Boston Blackie or Maverick. He uses disguise.

In several Boetticher films, the hero is solitary or has a single sidekick, and the villain has an entourage. In The Killer Is Loose this situation is reversed: the villain is conspicuously a man on the run alone, while the policeman hero has a large supporting team.

The murdered prison guard winds up dead in a ditch, like the victim shot dead in the stream in Comanche Station. This also recalls characters who get submerged in water troughs in The Tall T and Comanche Station.

The rain which engulfs the latter parts of the film, recalls the fog in Escape in the Fog, and the snow in Stopover.

The finale of characters walking around, being suspense targets for a possible shoot-out, anticipates Buchanan Rides Alone.

Cooking and Gender Roles

Much is made of the wife offering her husband and the other cops coffee, on the morning after the killer escapes. Coffee runs through Boetticher, with whole scenes built around it.

In the same scene, the wife and husband are shown cooking breakfast, anticipating the meal preparation in Stopover. While the wife is the primary cook, the husband is shown helping her with both the food, and setting the table. It forms a contrast to The Tall T and War of the Silver Kings, in which cooking is regarded by society as "woman's work", much to the resistance of the characters. As in War of the Silver Kings, the hero is conspicuously uninterested in the food which the heroine tries to provide for him.

The hero in The Killer Is Loose tries to distract the heroine from discussing serious issues, by helping with the cooking. It doesn't work! There is perhaps a suggestion, that by helping in the kitchen, the husband is trying to placate his wife, symbolically offering her support. The husband cooks in a purely voluntary manner, like the good guy men in Stopover, and utterly unlike the villain's henchman who has to be forced into it in The Tall T, who loudly regards it as woman's work.

Later, the villain Poole will force Mrs. Flanders to cook for him. This bad guy is insisting on traditional gender roles in the kitchen. The villains in The Tall T also force the heroine to cook for them, something which plainly makes her uncomfortable.

The bad guy is engulfed in the system of farming and food production. His whole prison escape, and later his passing through the Highway Patrol roadblock, centers on this.

We also see the little boy eating fruit, while watching television. He seems to be feeding himself, rather than having women do it for him.


The police use a wide range of technology in The Killer Is Loose, as they do in many other non-Boetticher films of the era. Technology also follows Boetticher traditions:

The Streets

The streets at the start have a strange atmosphere. The whole passage looks like something out of Antonioni, such as La Notte (1961) or L'Eclisse (1962): We have a sloping street: a Boetticher favorite. Buildings are built to adjust to the street slope, emphasizing it. Similar buildings often occur in other Boetticher films with tilted streets.

Box-Like Spaces Containing Men

Boetticher films often feature "strange-shaped spaces that contain men".

The bank interior is such a space. Its front door is set in an angled wall, so that it can view both sides of a street corner. This angle gives the otherwise box-like interior a "cut-off corner" shape. The interior is one of Boetticher's largest box-spaces. It "contains people", like other Boetticher spaces - and the containment effect is enhanced by the way the people are trapped inside the bank by the robbers.

The bank exterior appears in the first shot in the film. It is toward the end of the shot, and we see the bank building as whole from across the intersection. The "cut-off corner" architecture of the bank is conspicuous, with one whole wall on an angle to the rest of the building. The sloping roof of the bank also makes it a "strange shaped space", in addition to the cut-off corner wall.

One of the robbers emerges from what looks like a glassed-in entrance region of the Rootes building, next to the bank. This region has just contained the robber - although he is leaving it when we first see him. This entrance region can also be considered a box-like space containing a man.

The courtroom has doors in the corners. These doors are at angles to the rest of the room, making a small "cut-off corner" effect again. Once again, this produces a "strange-shaped space".

The finale of The Killer Is Loose shows police concealed in box-like spaces all over the neighborhood: garages, trucks, etc. Most of the spaces are fairly simple in shape, however.

The truck cabins are also spaces containing the bad guy.

After the shooting of Poole's wife, Poole is discovered in a space in the corner, behind a chair.

Poles - and Rotating Elements

The Killer Is Loose opens with a street sign on a pole, like the start of One Mysterious Night.

When the screen (for slides) in the police tech room is folded up, it has the shape of a tall pole, with the folded screen rotating on it.

The murderous hoe used by Poole, is another of the long poles in Boetticher. So is the odd-shaped night stick carried by the guard at the prison farm.

Rectilinear Building Exteriors

In the opening street scenes, a man walks by a building with a complex, rectilinear facade, of rows of white brick. This seems to be the Rootes building, next to the bank. It has a jutting portico, a feature Boetticher likes on such facades.

The apartment house where villain Poole lives, staked out by police early in the film, is a large complex, nearly entirely rectilinear in its facade. Its only non-rectilinear elements include "triangle with circle" designs over its doors. A long camera movement follows the hero as he moves by the building.

The Poole apartment house consists of many sections, that recess into repeated courtyards. Boetticher likes such recessed openings or gaps in his buildings.

The Flanders home exterior is rectilinear.


The sign on the bank reading "PubliKredit", is in an odd shape. It resembles a railroad crossing sign, or a bow tie. The sign is also painted on the bank's glass door.

The hero looks at his bedroom clock in the middle of the night. The clock is hexagonal, like the watch the heroine looks at at the start of Escape in the Fog.

The heroine and hero's kitchen is purely rectilinear, with wallpaper covered in large squares. Boetticher shoots it frontally, which emphasizes this, during the "making the breakfast" scene. The screen becomes a pleasing series of rectilinear regions.

The wall map of the city is divided up into numerous polygonal regions. It adds a striking jigsaw quality to the scenes shot in front of it. There is also a circle on the map, showing a radius where the missing man might be. In this scene, the hero's head is framed by one of the polygonal regions, while his assistant's (Michael Pate) head is located at the join of several line segments on the map. It is standard classical Hollywood procedure to frame characters against regions of the background. Boetticher is following this tradition, but taking advantage of his highly unusual polygonal map to offer a striking variant example of such a composition.

At the Flanders home, Poole is shot in front of wallpaper covered with numerous small squares.

The Flanders house is on a curved road.


Boetticher's fondness for leather clothes continues: The policemen in spiffy trenchcoats are also examples of that Boetticher image, a group of men dressed alike. The coats are conspicuously light-colored: examples of the shared colors in clothes that runs through Boetticher.

The uniformed cop Denny is dumb, and does comedy relief. He recalls the equally none-too-swift uniformed cops who get bamboozled by the bad guys in the pawnshop in One Mysterious Night.

Seven Men from Now

Seven Men from Now (1956) is the first of seven Westerns Boetticher made with Randolph Scott. It is Boetticher's finest film.

Mystery Plotting

Seven Men from Now has a mystery structure. We don't learn everything about characters or their history when we first meet them. There are step-by-step revelations throughout the film, telling us more and more about them. The story is a model of plot construction, keeping up audience interest as it steadily reveals hidden facts and connections.

Work: Gender and Pole Imagery

Like other Boetticher, Seven Men from Now has much about work and gender roles.

Scott orders the wife to cook for the men. Admittedly, in that era cooking was strongly seen as "women's work". Still, this sort of order for a woman to cook will be given by villains in other Boetticher movies, such as The Killer Is Loose and The Tall T, rather than a good guy. The wife not only cooks and makes coffee, but she also ostentatiously serves the men. There is a suggestion of a second place social status of women to men in this. Earlier, in the film's first scene, Scott helps himself to coffee - coffee made by other men. Men are perfectly capable of making and serving coffee themselves. Unlike cooking, which is a more complicated skill, coffee is easy. Boetticher films are full of coffee imagery, as well as booze: something which also runs through Seven Men from Now.

Scott breaks with gender roles in helping the heroine to wash clothes. As she explicitly points out, a lot of men would be afraid to do this. Ironically, the film's major phallic symbol appears in this scene: the long pole used to stir the clothes. In many other Boetticher films, such long poles are often associated with men in groups.

The film's other phallic pole, the shovel used by Marvin and sidekick to bury a bad guy, is more in keeping with the Boetticher tradition in its linkage to a pair of men. The flag carried by the cavalry troop might also qualify as a pole shared by a male group.

Scott, and apparently the film, blames his wife's death on the job she took to support the couple. But women in other Boetticher films can and do work.

Work: False Pride

Scott's "pride" caused him to turn down a Deputy's job, after he loses his Sheriff position. He now bitterly regrets this. There are a whole series of "Number Two" men in Boetticher, who are second-in-command in gangs or crooked towns. Boetticher tends to view this role with satiric skepticism. Scott's refusal of this job might be linked to similar feelings. However, the town is not a gang, and the Deputy's job was honest work. It's a job-in-itself, not a Number Two to a Sheriff.

Also, one wonders about Scott's pride in being Sheriff. He was a Big Shot: head man in what is probably a tiny town. One suspects his pride was false. Just as classy Abe Carbo in Buchanan Rides Alone is wasting his talents as the town big wheel, one suspects the Scott's feeling of pride in his Sheriff's job is not in touch with reality. Boetticher regularly suggests that worldly ambition is wasting our talents.

Despite the mixed feelings and complex attitudes the good guys and good gals bring to work, they are all vastly ahead morally of the villains, who want to support themselves by robbery. Seven Men from Now concludes with a conspicuous scene of the money box being returned to its rightful custodian, Wells Fargo. The box is also labeled Wells Fargo.


The saloon is full of the vice most often seen in other films in Boetticher's "dictatorial towns": booze, gambling, hookers and lots of crooked customers. However, there is no sign that the town that contains it, Flora Vista, is crook-run as a whole. On the other hand, honest government is in short supply, with a murder being committed in public on a city street in front of large crowds.

Box-Like Spaces Containing Men

Boetticher likes odd-shaped, three-dimensional spaces containing men: The hero encounters the heroine at the finale on a sloping town road. This recalls the first meeting of hero and heroine in old Austin in Horizons West, also on a sloping road in a Western town. In both cases, architecture seen behind the heroine involves adjustments in the porches and sidewalks to the road's gentle but noticeable angle.


Other Boetticher films contain doorways with rounded arches. In Seven Men from Now the covered wagon has rounded arches in front and back. There are some striking shots, shooting through this pair of nested arches.

Camera Movement

There are some Point Of View (POV) camera movements, when the husband and wife ride into town on their wagon. These show the sidewalks of the town, and the people. They seem to be from the viewpoint of the wife on the moving wagon.


Much of Seven Men from Now is designed in neutrals. This harmonizes with its desert locations.

But the film breaks out in vibrant red-and-blue color schemes three times. Red-and-blue is an intense color scheme that seems to set up a vibration in the viewer's eye. It is the deep opposite of any sort of neutral:

Villain Lee Marvin is associated with his green neck-scarf. He overturns a green table in the saloon. He also dons a red arm-band in the saloon. Such ornaments seem excessive, in the stripped down world of Seven Men from Now. Marvin's clothes have an odd, would-be aristocratic look. They vaguely evoke a rich man's yachting costume of a sports suit worn with an ascot scarf. The ensemble suggests the character has jaunty presumptions. He simultaneously looks tacky: a low life with delusions of swagger.


At the start, hero Scott is in a shiny black rain slicker. Characters wore this spectacular costume in The Killer Is Loose. Later, during the rainstorm mid-way through the movie, first Scott will be in this again, and then the husband unexpectedly dons a similar black slicker. It is the first hint that maybe the husband is more like Scott in character, rather than unlike him.

Seven Men from Now is simpler in its leather clothes, than some other Boetticher films. Both the husband and one of the bad guys wear leather vests, ordinary gear for the era.

The Count of Monte Cristo: The Affair of the Three Napoleons

The Affair of the Three Napoleons (1956) is an episode of the TV series The Count of Monte Cristo Boetticher directed.

The Affair of the Three Napoleons is set in France in 1834. The Napoleons of the title are three gold coins, symbolic of a sinister plot to put Napoleon III in charge of France.

A Pilot?

Although I have no direct historical evidence, The Affair of the Three Napoleons might be the pilot for the series The Count of Monte Cristo. Evidence from the episode: A director of Boetticher's stature might have been commissioned to guide a series pilot. The next year, Boetticher would direct the pilot episodes of Maverick.

Leading man George Dolenz had previously been the suave villain of Boetticher's Wings of the Hawk. He is even suaver here as the hero of The Affair of the Three Napoleons.


Like the other episodes of The Count of Monte Cristo, The Affair of the Three Napoleons is just under a half-hour long.

Horizons West (1969) by Jim Kitses mentions Boetticher's work on The Count of Monte Cristo - but says it was an hour long. However, I can't see signs that The Affair of the Three Napoleons was chopped down from an hour's length. It has a clear, easily followed story line. There are no signs of missing scenes.

Pure speculation: If there is missing footage, it might be that showing the earlier life of the Count, before the current version of The Affair of the Three Napoleons now opens.

The Hero

The noble hero of The Count of Monte Cristo is a sophisticated Frenchman. All of Sidney Marshall's dialogue is marvelously urbane. It effectively conveys a world where the characters are verbally adroit, and skilled in the expression of language.

There is no irony in the hero, for all of his sophistication. He has an earnestness, gravity and nobility that recalls Randolph Scott in the Ranown cycle. This is despite the fact that the two have very different backgrounds, with Scott playing Westerners and the Count being a 19th Century French sophisticate.


Two of the main scenes between the heroine and hero, are conducted in front of beautifully curved architecture: Boetticher takes full advantage of these backgrounds, to make beautiful compositions.

The Tall T

The Tall T (1957) is the second of seven Westerns Boetticher made with Randolph Scott.


Boetticher's compositions show his predilections for bold, purely geometric patterns. One shot depicts Randolph Scott crouching down and talking, against a landscape background. His thighs make a V pattern. The lines of the V are directly continued in the landscape. On the right of Scott there is an unusual rock formation. Both parts of it exactly match the line of his thigh. Such compositions made up of continued lines are an important part of design in traditional European oil painting. The formation has a spherical boulder on its top. This too is a pure geometric figure. Boetticher's interest in bold geometric figures recalls Sternberg.

An overhead shot of the station shows its architecture as a series of rectilinear forms. The sides of the rectangles are parallel to the frames of the screen.

The Boss as Trickster

The ranch owner Tenvoorde (pronounced "Ten forty") is Scott's former employer. He recalls such trickster figures as Maverick and Legs Diamond. He doesn't look like these handsome types, being plain, middle-aged and conventionally business-like. But he is just as full of sly gambles and schemes. He keeps luring the hero into bad bets. His purpose is to get the hero to come back to work for him.

The ranch owner wants Scott to be his #2 again. In this, he wants Scott to become like Abe Carbo in Buchanan Rides Alone. It also resembles the rich town boss in War of the Silver Kings, trying to hire Maverick as his lieutenant. Just like Maverick, Scott resists. Scott is not smart enough to stay out of the boss' gambles - and maybe he even enjoys being caught in his net. But Scott has the determination to avoid going back to work for his old boss again.

The Hero as Deadly Trickster

Scott becomes a trickster himself, in the far more deadly and serious encounter with Billy Jack. Scott sets up a sex killing, just like the sexual manipulations performed by Legs Diamond. The fact that this is a matter of life and death, disguises a bit how sleazy such manipulations are. Legs Diamond does such things for power, as do the characters in Point Blank. But Scott does them to survive, which balances out the moral equation.

The actual shooting of Billy Jack, is staged with sexual symbolism. The rifle is positioned like a phallic symbol, and it looks as if the two men are having a sexual encounter. The rifle perhaps becomes another of the long poles in Boetticher.

Billy Jack is the main character in leather clothes in The Tall T, wearing a spectacular pair of chaps that call attention to his body. Earlier we saw Scott's difficulties in getting his black leather boots on.


The Tall T involves a number of spaces, box-like areas that contain the characters. Such spaces are a Boetticher tradition: The depot has a covered porch in front, like the ranch to come in Stopover.

The Entry into Town

Scott's ride into town near the start is beautifully staged. The camera tracks along with him. We see many other people in the street, also in motion, that counterpoints that of Scott and the camera. Some of these are moving strictly parallel to Scott. But a horse cart moves across his path at exactly a 90 degree angle. Everyone's motion is staged along a strictly rectilinear grid. It is quite beautiful.

The motion of the cart, at a right angle, anticipates such moving characters in the famed opening camera movement of Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958).

Soon, Boetticher stages a nice tracking shot, sticking closely to the hero and Rintoon as they cross the street.


The heroine is hated by her father, because he is not the boy he wanted. She has spent her whole life, being part of an ambiguous gender situation.

The villains force her into a traditional female task, cooking. She can do it - but it is clearly not at the center of her life. The chief bad guy (Richard Boone) later forces Billy Jack to help her with the cooking, despite his assertions that it's "women's work". Cooking was indeed strongly associated with gender in 1950's America: the number one such activity, after child rearing.

In War of the Silver Kings, the main female character throws herself at hero Maverick, giving a speech saying that education in women is not important. Maverick is completely non-interested in her. She emphasizes her skill with cooking throughout the film, showing she is good at what was viewed then as the traditional female role, even if she has no education. The film does not comment: it neither endorses nor condemns her idea. But she raises no interest in the hero Maverick whatsoever.

The heroine of The Tall T is far less proficient at cooking: we see her having trouble picking up a hot coffee pot. But she interests the hero very much. This is the opposite of the situation in War of the Silver Kings.

Such gender issues are treated with the same spectacular story telling efficiency as everything else in Boetticher and Kennedy. They whiz by so fast, one hardly notices they are there. But they form a subplot running through The Tall T.

The Title

A silly note: despite careful watching of this film, I can't figure out why it is called The Tall T. It's a good name, but it doesn't seem to have anything to do with the plot. (I've since learned this title was reportedly slapped on the film after it was finished by a producer - and that Boetticher and Burt Kennedy were just as bewildered as I was!)

The phrase "The Tall T" recalls the names of ranches. For example Charles Alden Seltzer wrote the Western novel The Boss of the Lazy Y (1915). It was filmed in 1917. It takes place on the (fictitious) Lazy Y Ranch.

There is also a tradition of films and comics featuring phallic symbol letters like P, R and T. See my article Sports Numbers and Their Symbolism.

Maverick: War of the Silver Kings

War of the Silver Kings (1957) is the first of three episodes of the TV series Maverick Boetticher directed, and the pilot for the series. It is the most substantial and enjoyable of the three.


War of the Silver Kings shows the hero reforming and cleaning up a Western town. It is related to such Scott Westerns as Decision at Sundown and Buchanan Rides Alone. All three contain political allegories, suggesting opposition to political dictatorship.

However, War of the Silver Kings is unusually political. It does not restrict itself to allegory, or Western conventions of "the stranger cleaning up the town". It actually delves into the politics and economics of the town, in a detailed, and highly liberal way. American television of the era actually seems to have been sometimes quite remarkably politically liberal. One can compare the TV shows of Joseph H. Lewis, which are also explicitly political.

War of the Silver Kings is also different from the Scott films, in that the hero never uses violence to achieve any goals, not even in self-defense. He is an entirely non-violent hero. However, he never uses Gandhian non-violent mass protest, either.

The Hero: A Sly Smoothie

Bret Maverick is a character who first appears in the three Maverick episodes Boetticher directed. So Boetticher presumably played a role shaping the character.

Slick, sly handsome smoothies like Maverick are more typically villains in Boetticher. We are used to Legs Diamond, who is in many ways a nasty person, despite the character's deceptive leading man charm. Maverick has all of Legs' good looks and skill as a con man. But Maverick uses his talents entirely on the side of good.

Maverick's story snowballs, just as Legs' does, but always in a benevolent direction. Both characters eventually become hugely prominent. While Maverick is successful at his goals in the other two Boetticher episodes, he does not achieve this sort of huge worldly success in them. His rise in War of the Silver Kings is similar in scale to that of Legs Diamond's, or Robert Ryan's in Horizons West.

At the end of the tale, Maverick turns down a chance to be the town boss' lieutenant, running things in Echo Springs. This is exactly the role played by Abe Carbo in Buchanan Rides Alone to come. Maverick has some interesting dialogue, explaining why this would be bad for the town. In the later film, Boetticher will show the real waste of Carbo's impressive abilities, running his dreadful burg.

Maverick is dressed like the town boss in Decision at Sundown: suit, frilled shirt, fancy vest. The town boss in Decision at Sundown is a bad guy, but not entirely bad, and a source of energy. This kind of character is now using his talents for good, in the form of Maverick.

Male Bonding

War of the Silver Kings is perhaps unusual, in that it does not show a romance between the hero Maverick and the heroine. Instead, while she has a crush on him, he does not reciprocate.

Instead, Maverick develops an on-going, male bonding relationship with saloon keeper Big Mike (the ultra-macho Leo Gordon). In some ways, this might - or might not - be viewed as a gay relationship.

The great bulk of the Maverick TV series, after Boetticher left after three episodes, portrays its heroes as heterosexual. There is often a romantic encounter between the hero and a pretty guest star. The series as a whole is notably "straight".

The Barbershop: Symbolism, Lines and Revolving Objects

The barbershop scene is full of what can be read as homoerotic symbolism. Perhaps the gun and the shaving brush are related to Boetticher's pole imagery. They are closely followed by the revolving barbershop chair. Poles and revolving objects are part of this "suite" of Boetticher imagery.

At the end, the crowd is carrying clubs, and Big Mike is holding a shovel, to be used as a weapon. These are also poles used by men in a group. The shovel recalls the hoe also used as a weapon by the convict in The Killer Is Loose.

Crowded Sleep

Maverick wakes up after the attack, to find himself in a strange bedroom. The woman taking care of him promptly crowds him, zooming in on his sleeping space. This is milked for humor. Later, in Stopover, young Mark will have to share his now crowded bedroom with a visiting woman, also causing him embarrassment, as well as excitement.


The hero wages a publicity campaign in the town newspaper. The police ran a publicity campaign about their manhunt in The Killer Is Loose, using television.

The giant diagram of the mine, in the courtroom, recalls the giant wall map in The Killer Is Loose.

Camera Movement

There is a striking long take camera movement, showing people waiting around the saloon on election night. The camera travels all over the room, stopping to focus on one group after another.

The election writing above the bar, recall the signs there for the boss' wedding celebration in Decision at Sundown.

Overhead Shots

When Maverick exits on the street, there is an overhead angle, showing him, the street and the building facade. Soon this is turned into the Point of View of the villain watching him from an upper story window across the street.

The facade is also one of the rectilinear buildings in Boetticher.


The town boss wears a fancy tie pin. It consists of a circle of small jewels. These resemble the circle of pin heads on the map in The Killer Is Loose. That map was covered with polygonal lines. The town boss' vest and elaborate collar are also full of polygonal lines and shapes.

James Garner and Maverick

James Garner was a young actor, who had only been working in television and film for around two years, when he got the title role in Maverick. What I have seen of Garner's pre-Maverick work shows a likable young man in fairly "serious", although good-natured roles: see his performances as the minister in the Cheyenne episode The Last Train West (1956), or the test pilot in Towards the Unknown (Mervyn LeRoy, 1956). These are both sound, charming acting jobs, and both show Garner's romantic rapport with women, but neither reveals the comic skills Garner would display in Maverick.

By contrast, Maverick created a sensation, with Garner's comic hero a richly developed character.

The emergence of the Maverick character could reflect input from many different people: Garner himself, his acting teachers, the show's creators, writers and producers, studio executives, dialogue directors. But it is also reasonable to speculate that Budd Boetticher had something to do with it. Boetticher was the director of the show's first three episodes.

Maverick: Point Blank

Point Blank (1957) is the second of three episodes of the TV series Maverick Boetticher directed. This script was reportedly intended to be the pilot of the series. But it was actually shot and broadcast second, after War of the Silver Kings, also directed by Boetticher.

Twisty Relationships

Many of the Scott Westerns feature sexual tension among many men, centering on a beautiful woman. Point Blank is perhaps related, with similar tension over the heroine. But its heroine is a schemer, not an innocent female like those in the Scott films.

Both the heroine and hero Maverick wind up manipulating and playing games with people's lives, like the con-man Legs in The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond. The games become quite intricate. As in that film, the games involve people's love lives, but are used to gain power in monetary situations.

Some male bonding takes place between the Sheriff and Maverick, who are rivals for the heroine. As in The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, sometimes this relationship between men takes precedence over those between the hero and a woman. The hero-woman relationship is twisted and manipulated, to strengthen the male-male tie.

The Hero's Rise - and the Sheriff

Maverick starts out in trouble. But gradually he becomes more successful in the town. This rise is enjoyable to watch. It is more fun than the crime-heroine main plot of the show. It frequently seems to involve Maverick's relationship with the Sheriff.

In some ways, the Sheriff and hero Maverick, are the Boetticher pair of authority figure and reforming crook. The Sheriff makes great show of locking the hero up in jail, and ordering him about. Such attentions often come from the authority figure, but they are often a bit tongue-in-cheek. The Sheriff also gives Maverick support when it counts, like other seemingly stern authority figures. Maverick's "reforming crookedness" is very mild compared to other such Boetticher characters, though: he is a two-bit, non-violent con man, who only runs a dodge when he is hungry.

The Sheriff (Richard Garland) wears a leather vest, making him another Boetticher man dressed in leather. He also has a conspicuous Sheriff's star on it. His deputy (Peter Brown) is also dressed in a similar leather vest, with star. The sheriff and deputy form another Boetticher "group of men with a common profession who dress alike".

Links to Lawman

Peter Brown, who plays the young deputy, would soon get his first continuing TV series role in another Western as a deputy: Lawman (1958-1962). Lawman was also produced by Warner Brothers, like Maverick. Both were part of the studio's successful stable of TV Westerns.

Lawman has a premise much like Point Blank: a small Western town, a handsome town Marshal, and his loyal young deputy, played by Peter Brown. The Western town set of Point Blank looks the same as the town Laramie in Lawman. (The same town set occasionally shows up in other Warner Brothers TV Westerns too.)

As far as I can tell, Boetticher had nothing to do with the TV series Lawman. But much of its premise is already present in Boetticher's Point Blank.

The Lawman pilot was written by Dean Riesner, who had played the small role of the young doctor in Boetticher's Assigned to Danger.

The Lousy Small Town

Maverick has a low opinion of the small town - and little we see suggests he is wrong. The town has the satiric name of Bent Forks. It doesn't seem crooked or under control of a dictatorial regime, unlike bad towns in other Boetticher films like Buchanan Rides Alone. But it seems small and second rate.

Maverick wonder what a pretty woman like the heroine is doing in the town.

Although the dialogue doesn't say so, the Sheriff and his deputy are both also much too classy to be spending their lives running this town. Like Abe Carbo in Buchanan Rides Alone, one suspects they are wasting their lives on a place far beneath them. Like Abe Carbo, they seem to be the only men in town who are really sharply dressed. Unlike Abe Carbo, they are honest.

The witty dialogue between the Sheriff and Maverick towards the finale, when the Sheriff gives Maverick ten minutes to get out of town, anticipates the jokes in Buchanan Rides Alone about a "ten-dollar town".


Point Blank is another Boetticher film, in which intrigue over a treasure is a mainspring of the plot.

Cooking and Gender Roles

The heroine brings Maverick food in jail. This looks like a traditional "woman serving food" gender role. But we learn she has actually taken over a man's job to serve such food, so she can talk with Maverick. Also, she waits around the jail talking to Maverick, using as an excuse that she needs to return the tray. But the jealous Sheriff insists he will do this. There is a contest in both bringing the food and returning the tray, over whether the woman should do these tasks, or a man.

Later, the heroine uses as her justification for getting Maverick released from jail, that she didn't want him to have to eat jail food.


The deputy (Peter Brown) uses a pencil in his desk work, in his last scene.

A lamppost on the town street is shown in the paired shots: when Maverick first rides into town at the film's start; and when Maverick rides out of town at the film's end. This lamppost is perhaps related to the street signs that open some contemporary Boetticher films, such as One Mysterious Night and The Killer Is Loose, although it is less conspicuous.

Spaces Containing Men

There are no strictly box-like areas containing the characters in Point Blank. But there are a few spaces, usually more rectilinear than strange-shaped:

Rectilinear Facades

The final shot goes by many of the town's buildings. These have the rectilinear facades Boetticher likes. There are recessed areas: the store to the right of the Sheriff's office has a recessed store area marked off by pillars, nested within the covered sidewalk. The jutting porticos of the covered sidewalks are also a feature found in a number of Boetticher facades.


The town street is featured in a number of shots, which often use camera movement. One beautiful shot shows Maverick being ridden out of town. A pan goes by much of the complex, angled architecture of the town buildings.

An earlier shot follows the heroine from the saloon to the bank.


The heroine's room has a light wallpaper pattern. It is about as light and patterned as her dress, although the dress fabric has a different specific pattern. One wonders if the similarities are deliberate, and if the heroine's appearance and room are coordinated.

Maverick: According to Hoyle

According to Hoyle (1957) is the last of the three episodes of the TV series Maverick Boetticher directed. It is probably the least interesting of the three.

Links to Boetticher's previous Maverick episodes

According to Hoyle draws on plot ideas of the previous two Boetticher episodes. Like Point Blank, it features a fascinating, sweet acting but manipulative woman, who is up to various schemes. In both, Maverick treats her actions and motivations as a mystery he is trying to solve. However, there are no romantic games in According to Hoyle, unlike Point Blank. In fact there is no romance of any sort in According to Hoyle.

Also like Point Blank, Maverick's skill with poker is featured, specifically, his ability to detect gambling fraud. However, while both Point Blank and War of the Silver Kings open with poker scenes, and then convert to general, non-poker tales, According to Hoyle concentrates on gambling throughout. Perhaps this is a reason I like it less than the other two episodes: gambling just doesn't seem to be that substantial or interesting a subject.

Like War of the Silver Kings, According to Hoyle has a second half, in which Maverick cleans up a crook-run town. His approach also recalls War of the Silver Kings (SPOILERS):

The plot events in the second half of are shorter and simpler than those in War of the Silver Kings. They also do not show Maverick rising to prominence, as he did in the earlier show.

The character of Big Mike returns from War of the Silver Kings, once again as Maverick's friend. However, the film takes their friendship as a given, and male bonding is not featured in any substantial way in the plot of According to Hoyle.

Links to Westbound

The second half of According to Hoyle has plot elements that anticipate Westbound. In both:

Samantha Crawford: Trickster and Fake Southerner

Scheming con-woman Samantha Crawford (played by Diane Brewster) did not originate with According to Hoyle. Her character began on an episode of another Warner Brothers TV Western series, Cheyenne. This episode was The Dark Rider (1956), directed by Richard L. Bare. She would later appear on three more episodes of Maverick, none directed by Boetticher.

Samantha is one of Boetticher's trickster characters. She has surprising schemes, including the card con-game that gives According to Hoyle its title. Hero Maverick, seen as a trickster in earlier shows, is more straightforward in his plans in According to Hoyle, and less of a wily trickster character. Dialogue also emphasizes Maverick's honesty.

Crawford's phony Southern accent and gentility, might be read as another negative Boetticher comment on the traditions of the Old South.

Her relentless "femininity" also recalls Boetticher unsympathetic females who are the kept women of rich men, and who sometimes share in their crimes. Samantha is indeed the ally and employee of an obnoxious villain. However, it is unclear if she is this man's mistress, or only a ally in his con games.

Samantha makes a contrast with Ma, one of Boetticher's "honest women who work on equal terms with men". Ma is completely lacking in feminine glamour.


People other than the hero are shown drinking alcohol.

Good gal Ma goes into her kitchen to brew coffee for the heroes. As usual, Maverick is not a drinker. This scene is also a simple example of a woman cooking for men. The gender roles are quite traditional here, unlike some Boetticher films.

Camera Movement

There is a well done, long take camera movement in the casino. It opens with a sign on the wall (recalling Decision at Sundown), and then tracks around, to pick up various characters. It recalls the election night track in War of the Silver Kings. Both tracks have a stop-and-start quality, moving around to various groups in an interior.

A camera movement shows characters walking on the ship's deck, after the second card game. It follows both the private eye, and Maverick walking with the woman.

Overhead Shots

When Maverick has his confrontation on the street with the villain's henchmen, Boetticher uses an overhead view. It makes all the action very clear.

This crooked boss is indeed another Boetticher villain with an entourage. Also, the boss implicitly offers Maverick a fair fist fight. Then takes advantage of this to capture Maverick. This recalls the more elaborate "lying promises of dictators" plot episodes in other Boetticher films.


Samantha Crawford's first hotel room is full of curved and circular forms: the head and foot of her bed, her round valise, a table.

Another space associated with a woman, Ma's home also has circular forms. These are most prominent in the scene where she helped path up the beaten heroes. There are circular curtain hangings near the ceiling, a spherical table lamp, a rounded ceiling lamp in the next room, oval pictures on the wall. Ma wears a circular bun in her hair, and is carrying a circular bowl.

When Maverick and Samantha have their talk at night on the deck of the ship, curved shadows appear on the wall behind them.

Rigg's gambling house has a huge circular wheel-of-fortune.

Decision at Sundown

Decision at Sundown (1957) is the third of the seven Boetticher-directed Randolph Scott Westerns. Decision at Sundown is a key work of Boetticher, looking at a town run by a sinister dictator, and offering a social protest against this.

Decision at Sundown has a complex story. It has twelve major characters, each with well-defined personalities and distinct reactions to the town's political situation.

Vernon L. Fluharty

The credits say the film Decision at Sundown is based on a "story" by Vernon L. Fluharty. Vernon L. Fluharty (1907-1957) wrote Western novels in the 1950's, under the pseudonyms Jim O'Mara and Michael Carder. Fluharty's Decision at Sundown is a 1955 novel, published under his pseudonym Michael Carder. He wrote scholarly works as Vernon Lee Fluharty, including a non-fiction book on Columbia, Dance of the millions; military rule and the social revolution in Colombia, 1930-1956 (1957).

Much information on Vernon L. Fluharty can be found at MYSTERY*FILE, including bibliographies.

The Doctor and Non-Violence

The doctor is the man who talks the townspeople into rebelling against the dictator. He is one of Boetticher's social organizer characters.

The doctor is explicitly opposed to violence. He seems to be an embodiment of non-violent hopes for social change. He is in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi.

The doctor is a strikingly handsome and well-dressed man. He is as classy looking as Abe Carbo in Buchanan Rides Alone. Unlike Carbo, he is working in a noble profession that helps people, as a doctor, rather than Carbo's role as a Number 2 for a corrupt town boss.

The doctor talks about how he "fell in love with the town" and then "fell in love with its people". This recalls the universal love nonviolent hero Osceola has in Seminole. Such love is linked to non-violent social resistance and change.

The doctor is associated with the two main technological areas in town: his physician's office, and the livery stable, which he visits repeatedly.

The doctor shows enormous physical courage twice, when he intervenes in a street shoot-out to treat a wounded man. This shows tremendous gutsiness, in a non-violent way. These scenes echo each other. But they also have him aiding first one side, than the other in the conflict. This shows his role as a peacemaker and someone willing to promote peace and oppose violence on both sides.

The Revolt and Non-Violence

When Ray Teal's men go to disarm the dictator's crooked deputies, they move out into the city streets in some of the organized processions that run through Boetticher's films.

The disarmament is partly non-violent: no shots are fired, no one is hurt, superior numbers of Teal's men play a role. And it is partly violent, or at least involving the use of force: Teal's men use their guns to get the drop on the deputies. While this action is not entirely "non-violent", involving some force, it is fairly close to non-violence for a Western movie. It does involve mass action by the citizens of the town, in opposition to a dictatorial regime.

Also complicating the issue of whether the finale of Decision at Sundown shows a non-violent protest and action: the fact that hero Scott has already killed the two lead corrupt lawmen, is a key enabler for the revolt against the dictator. If these dangerous gunmen were still alive, it would be much harder to move against the dictator Donovan.

On the other hand, one could argue that in the overall structure of Decision at Sundown that these corrupt lawmen have been killed, as a condemnation of their actions. These men are running a dictatorial police force, one that stands allegorically for such monstrous secret police as the Gestapo and the KGB. Decision at Sundown views them with overwhelming disgust and condemnation.

The Marriage

The marriage ceremony seems like a variant of the public prayers that run through Boetticher. Like them: Marriage ceremonies, in real life and fiction, have a key moment when the man officiating asks if anyone present knows just cause why the marriage should not take place. The archetypal scene in prose fiction is in Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre (1848). The scene in Decision at Sundown is much like it. My mother always said that she never attended a wedding where this question did not give her a frisson.

Scott is seen in the distant background in church, in long shot and full figure. This echoes a bit the shots of covered wagons in The Cimarron Kid, which appear in the far distance, and reveal to the heroes that they are trapped.

Everyone in the front of the church turns and looks at Scott. This anticipates the finale of The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, where men at the board-room style meeting of Allied Enterprises crime syndicate turn their heads in unison. The head turning in Decision at Sundown is not as synchronized, with people turning their heads at slightly different times.

Trapped in the Livery Stable

The heroes are trapped in the center of town, in the livery stable. This recalls the heroes being trapped in a town street in The Cimarron Kid.

In The Cimarron Kid, the heroes find a way out through a door, that is barred by a huge wooden bolt. Similarly shaped bolts are on the livery stable doors in Decision at Sundown. Both livery stable doors make geometric patterns of rectangles, formed by the upper and lower halves of the doors, bolts, brackets to hold the bolts, and a window in the front stable door. These geometric patterns recall paintings by Mondrian made out of rectangles. The doors and their geometry form part of the visual style of the scenes.

Noah Beery uses a curved hook for handling hay, to attack an intruder. This recalls the villain of The Killer Is Loose, who finds a curved scythe like farm tool, with which he will kill the farm family (off-screen).

Suspense: A Man in Danger Walking

Noah Beery tries to walk away from a confrontation in the street, towards the livery stable. This is one of the suspense scenes of people walking in Boetticher. More often, they serve as finales of films, but in Decision at Sundown this comes mid-picture.

A Gay Character?

Zaron, the Justice of the Peace, is a gentle man with an exceptionally mild manner for an Old West town. He has fantasies of becoming a minister someday, and often dresses and talks like one. He seems to be a social misfit, a one-of-a-kind man who is trying to create a social role for himself, so that he will have a place in this society.

Zaron is not shown as having any sort of sexual attraction to other men. But his extremely mild manner suggests he is possibly a gay character. His embodiment of a fantasy life, and reaching for a role that might permit him social integration, might be seen as gay coping strategies, attempts of a gay man to find a place in the social order. The way he is publicly taunted also perhaps invokes the harassment that gay men often suffer.

His search for a social role is something of a failure: when last seen he is drunk, and his tormentor is crowing in triumph that he will never have the nerve to get up in a pulpit again. Whether he will rebuild is unclear.

Even when drunk at the end, Zaron manages to speak cogently about the moral issues, reminding the villain that "Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord".

Richard Deacon, who plays Zaron, worked with Boetticher before on Step Child (1954), an episode of the TV series Public Defender. He has a single scene in Step Child as a truant officer: also a man who tries to offer guidance to society.

A Sloping Street

One of the streets is on a slight downward slope. This is emphasized by the way buildings on it adjust to the slope, offering greater and greater expanse of wall as the street slopes down.

In the street gun duels between the good guys and the bad guys, the bad guys are often standing on the sloping street. They repeatedly take up a similar position, by the same buildings on the slanting street. This means that the gun duel positions echo each other, from gun duel to gun duel.

Sloping streets regularly appear in Boetticher films. In the opening bank robbery in The Killer Is Loose, and the meeting of the bad guy and bad gal protagonists of Horizons West, they are associated with villains. By contrast, the finale of Seven Men from Now links them to the good guy and good gal heroine.

Strange Shaped Spaces

Unusual-shaped spaces include: The church's outside porch and inside vestibule are also box-like spaces, more rectilinearly shaped.

Ruby is repeatedly shown from outside her hotel room window, looking down on the street. At the end, Doc and Lucy instead are looking down from a similar window. It is as if they have taken on her role, or position in society.

Circles and Curves

The hero has a circular coil of rope attached to his saddle. There are also rope coils on the livery stable wall, a bit more elliptical.

There are elliptical panels in the inside doors in the saloon.

The hotel room where Ruby hangs out, has screens with circle designs on them.


The stained glass windows at the church are made up of rectangular panels. The panels are different colors, outlining a cross. Boetticher likes "large wall areas broken into polygonal regions", such as these windows or the map in The Killer Is Loose. Characters are sometimes framed against these window panels: Boetticher likes to frame characters against interesting background shapes.

In the saloon, characters are sometimes framed against the staircase. The two upper branches of the stairs leading off the landing, give the stairway a Y-shape. This shape makes the framing regions be polygonal, instead of rectilinear.


A color scheme that runs through Boetticher, "red with blue", shows up in the scene where Beery gets his meal in the restaurant. Soon, "red with blue" is also the color scheme of a scene outside the restaurant in the street.


Hero Scott and his friend Noah Beery are both in that Boetticher favorite leather clothes.

The doctor and the bartender are both in white shirts and gray suit vests. Boetticher often features men in common professions who dress alike. The bartender and doctor are not in the same profession. But both are verbally fluent, non-violent men who take a caustic, critical attitude to the town dictator. Both hang around in the saloon. Their similar clothes underscore these common features.

One woman, the rich young heiress, is in white bridal clothes. White signifies virginity. She is certainly a most "respectable" woman, wanting a "proper" marriage. Actress Karen Steele was also in a white dress in Point Blank, so perhaps there is also a belief that she looks good in white.

The other woman Ruby has a name invoking the color red. She is also first seen in red clothes, and later wears a red hat. Red was a symbol of "scarlet women", that is, women who were openly sexually active outside of marriage. Ruby is indeed the former girlfriend of the villain, and the film does everything to get across the idea that Ruby and the villain had a long-term sexual liaison, well-known to everyone in the town.

Buchanan Rides Alone

Buchanan Rides Alone (1958) is the fourth of the seven Boetticher-directed Randolph Scott Westerns.

A Gay Relationship

Buchanan Rides Alone can be seen as the queerest of Boetticher's Randolph Scott Westerns. Scott was gay in real life, but usually played straight characters on screen. Here, however, he has what is essentially a love relationship with the noble young Mexican, Juan. Both men are instinctively attracted to each other, and they remain loyal and true throughout the rest of the movie.

Buchanan Rides Alone differs from many other of the Boetticher-Scott Westerns, in that the hero has almost no back-story. He is not driven obsessively by events in his past, unlike other heroes of these films. Instead, he is following his own feelings in the present.

The hero asks Juan what his relationship is to the woman he avenged. The hero explicitly asks if she's Jaun's wife - and eventually learns she's his sister. An unspoken sidelight: this conversation also asks whether Juan was married, that is, heterosexual. But Juan turns out not to be involved in marriage.

Randolph Scott's gay relationships are documented in works cited in this older version of a Wikipedia article. These include the book Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969 (2001) by William J. Mann.

Abe Carbo: Talent and Waste

Abe Carbo (played by Craig Stevens) is vastly classier than anyone else in Agry Town. As manager of the Judge's estates, he is clearly a much more intelligent and able person than the Agry family, or the other sleazy denizens. He is also the only person in town who is well dressed. He is clearly a person that could have a success in the big world. Unfortunately, he has built his career on these crooks, and is deeply corrupt himself. He recalls the Robert Ryan character in Horizons West, Legs Diamond, and other elegant men in Boetticher who are ambitious crooks. There is also an element of pathos to him. Boetticher's other villains become big wheels, at least temporarily before their inevitable downfall, but Carbo's only reward is to become boss of Agry Town. It is such a two bit little place. There is an element of satire, suggesting that many of the worldly goals toward which we work are pathetically minor and unworthy of our abilities.


Amos Agry (Peter Whitney) constantly monitors the town for news, spying and eavesdropping, as well as prying into the lives of guests at his hotel. He then passes this information on to the corrupt Sheriff - and is nicknamed "The Town Crier" for doing so. He relates to the Boetticher theme of surveillance. He doesn't use technology, the way the modern-day cops monitoring suspects in The Killer Is Loose do. But he is carrying on an unofficial but full-scale government program of surveillance all the same.

Gender and Cooking

In Buchanan Rides Alone much of the food is provided by men. The hero orders food from Nacho at the saloon. Later, Pecos offers the hero the bacon and coffee from his saddlebag.

Plot Structure

The first twenty minutes of Buchanan Rides Alone has a few mystery elements. We don't always know in this opening section what the characters are like, what their relationships are with each other, or exactly what they have done. These mysteries are resolved in a step-by-step fashion, filling us in on people we've met, but don't always know much about. By the twenty minute point, all the film's mysteries are revealed. From then on, the story is a thriller, without more mystery in the plot.

The opening twenty minutes of Buchanan Rides Alone resemble in structure, what is going on through the whole length of Seven Men from Now and Comanche Station. In those films, "gradually resolved mysteries" take up most of the running time of the whole film.

Staging: Varied Use of the Sets

The staging in Buchanan Rides Alone shows great respect for real space. The main town area is one huge set, and it is easy to figure out where we are in it at all times. Boetticher often moves his camera around the town, making it clear exactly where everything is. He gets tremendous amount of visual variety from this one location.

Similarly, Boetticher uses great ingenuity with his interiors, photographing them from every possible angle and direction. The bar is used in repeated contexts. First it is the location of the killing. Later, the awful trial is staged there.

Long Takes

Buchanan Rides Alone has a few "longer" takes - these might not be enormously long by the standards of film history.

One is in the opening saloon sequence. It begins with the hero's jokes about the "ten dollar town". It moves on to the hero offering Roy a drink.

When the hero and Juan are first imprisoned, Boetticher starts out with some establishing shots. Then he moves into a long-held fairly close view of the two men's heads. In this sequence, the men talk intimately about their lives. Some characteristics;

Crossing the Street

After the heroes are knocked out in the saloon, they are carried across the street and put in the jail. Numerous men accompany them across the street: they form one of Boetticher's organized processions. They recall a bit the group of cops crossing the street at the start of One Mysterious Night, although the police are in more of a geometric formation.

The way the honest Mexicans watch from afar, as the crooked Sheriff's men put the heroes in jail, recalls Decision at Sundown, and the honest townspeople watching helplessly as the crooked lawmen shoot Noah Beery.

The Trial

The opening shot of the trial, is a long-take scene from a single camera step-up. It shows the entire court, and the activities of the crowd. All the time, the comic and least professional bailiff in screen history is trying the bring the court to his idea of "order".

Several shots embody the Boetticher approach of organized processions. These include the prisoners entering the courtroom, and the jury filing out and in. These snake through a complex curved path in the courtroom.

The jury lacks a jury box, so they sit on the stairs. This is a comic image. It is also visually striking. The staircase is railed, and becomes another Boetticher strange-shaped space containing men.

When Scott leaves the courtroom, Boetticher uses a different approach. He cuts to a fairly high angle. He also shows Scott going out of the left wall, a wall of the saloon not much shown before during the trial.


The Sheriff's door has bars on it. We first see this, in an unusual shot in which the bars swing out into the screen. I've never seen anything like this in other films.

Boetticher liked unusual shots involving bars. The later sections of Behind Locked Doors are full of unusually staged scenes using the barred windows in the Violent Ward.

Spaces Containing Men

Spaces for men include: The tree where Lafe is "buried" is not a closed container. But it is an unusual region occupied by a human. We also see the hole where the hero first intended to bury Lafe.


Much of Buchanan Rides Alone is in neutrals or earth-tones. The color has a subdued feel, although it is not pushed to the desaturated, all-brown extreme of many post-1980 Westerns. The color design in Buchanan Rides Alone is much less bright than the brilliant color schemes often found in American film and TV Westerns of the 1950's and 1960's. An example of such bright color: Boetticher's own Seminole.

The subdued color is perhaps meant to suggest what a squalid, two-bit place Agrytown is.

The Cast

Peter Whitney had a long career, often playing villains. He was often far fiercer and more frightening than in his Amos Agry characterization. His nine roles on the TV series The Rifleman include four episodes directed by Joseph H. Lewis: Eddie's Daughter (1959), Heller (1960), Strange Town (1960) and Long Gun from Tuscon (1961). He also appeared in Lewis' only episode of the series Daniel Boone, the politically impressive Pompey (1964). Whitney sometimes played good guys, as in the Cheyenne episode The Imposter (Lee Sholem, 1959). Whitney's highly varied roles show his range. He was clearly considered a character actor of the old school, one who could take on many different personas.

Ride Lonesome

The Opening: Boetticher approaches

Ride Lonesome (1959) shows a number of Boetticher's characteristic approaches in its opening.

Strange Shaped Spaces. Scott appears, riding through a narrow canyon or passage in the rocks. Later, at the station, he rests at night between the stagecoach wheel, and the passenger coach: an odd shaped, narrow space.

The heroine is introduced in the doorway of the station. The small doorway is just big enough to contain her.

Elevated camera angles, to show geometric layouts. The opening overhead shot of the canyon is a classic example.

Pans. Boetticher pans vertically in the ravine to follow Scott, then moves up and to the right, to reveal the bad guy. This is an outstandingly complex shot.

There are soon many other pans and occasional tracks to follow Boetticher's characters through the landscape. These are usually left-to-right or right-to-left, in the Boetticher tradition.

Leather clothes. The hero wears a buckskin shirt. He also wears a leather gun belt that is an exact match for the buckskin shirt, in terms of color. It is a fancy outfit, one whose bright color calls attention to it. The shirt looks like it is a bit hard and time consuming to put on or take off, like the stiffly buttoned-up leather jacket worn by the hero of One Mysterious Night.

Wind keeps blowing, ruffling the fringe on Scott's shirt. This calls further attention to the outfit.

Color coordinated clothes. The hero wears a reddish-brown shirt and gun belt: a color harmony. He is immediately contrasted to James Best's bad guy, who wears a green top. Soon, they are joined by two more men. Parnell Roberts' green shirt links him to Best: a color coordination between the two men's costumes, like the paired black outfits worn by the heroine and Adam West in Stopover. And Parnell's sidekick (James Coburn) is in a red shirt, that echoes Scott, although much less dressily.

Red and green color contrasts are found in Fritz Lang's color films, such as Rancho Notorious (1952) and The Tiger of Eschnapur (1959).

Handcuffs. Bounty hunter Scott is soon handcuffing crook Best. Best enjoys it, laughing, and urging Scott to put on the cuffs. It is a game the two men enjoy playing.

Crooks going straight. Parnell Roberts and his sidekick are crooks trying to reform, go straight, and get fixed with the law, hoping to win an amnesty. They recall Boston Blackie and his sidekick in One Mysterious Night, also reformed crooks turned detectives. Roberts is glib, comic and charming, also like Blackie. Scott has the role of "authority figure of the law" to them, a bit like the police Inspector in One Mysterious Night. Like the Inspector, he gives them a hard time through the film, then supports them at the end, where it counts. There are hints that Scott's seemingly harsh and demanding treatment of reforming crook Roberts is a game the two men are playing, just like the Inspector and Blackie - and one that both men are enjoying. Roberts seems to really like and admire Scott.

Thirsty men. Best offers Scott coffee, not altogether sincerely (it's a trap). Soon, the heroine is offering Scott coffee, for real.

Long poles. This is more gruesome in Ride Lonesome than elsewhere in Boetticher: the long spear is sticking out of the stagecoach driver's chest.

Later, a second spear will be thrust into the ground, as the start of the negotiation.

A burial - and a prayer that does not quite happen. Roberts and sidekick have to bury the victims of the stagecoach attack. They say it's a shame that no prayers are said over the internment. Boetticher has prayer scenes elsewhere: this is one that does not quite happen. The dialogue has comic overtones, common in Boetticher's communal prayer scenes.

Working class characters. Everyone in Ride Lonesome seems to be working for a living. They are all explicitly people without money - no big shots.

The villain's entourage. Villain James Best has four men in his entourage, hidden in the hills.

Action staged with tiny figures in long shot, embedded in a landscape. We see Best's four entourage members emerging one by one, in long shots. They are small figures in the rocky landscape.


Westbound (1959) is the sixth of the seven Boetticher-directed Randolph Scott Westerns.

North and South

Westbound offers a strongly negative view of the Confederacy. Boetticher is clearly a pro-Union director. This is consistent with the pro-Civil Rights view throughout Boetticher's films.

Towards the end we meet a few honest Southerners, intended to give Westbound balance. But mainly the Confederacy forces we see are vile in their behavior.

Curved Shapes

Boetticher shows a predilection for curvilinear forms. In Westbound, there are numerous shots of winding roads through the California hills. The hills are curved, and the roads are complex 3D curved paths, running on curved hills, and themselves twisting and turning. Boetticher includes many stable shots, showing the stagecoach moving along the roads.

Boetticher's Characters

Both The Bullfighter and the Lady and Westbound open with the hero trying to make friends with another man. In both cases, the friendship seems preparatory to the hero going into business with the new friend, or at least sharing a profession.

Boetticher characters often have entourages. These are bands of men who follow him around and support him. They are usually seated all around the character during our first meeting with him. They are in a subordinate position, either seated at his feet, or below him at the head of the table. Boetticher carefully composes the men in the entourage. They form a detailed geometric pattern. Their gestures and body postures exude arrogance. They are only tough because they are part of this team however: it is clear that without their leader they would be pretty two bit. It is only villains and second leads who have entourages - never the hero. And never rich, respectable characters. It is men who specialize in machismo who have the entourage. The men in the entourage also wear the same sort of clothes as the hero. It is not a uniform - the clothes are all varied - but they clearly all follow the same dress code.

Protagonists in Boetticher are often motivated by a hatred of routine work. This is often symbolized by farming, which probably requires the toughest effort of any profession. Robert Ryan in Horizons West (1953) and Michael Dante in Westbound both come to mind. Both end up dead, as does the gangster in The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960). These are all characters who want a more adventurous life, but who reach too far.

Boetticher's characters are often tempted by women who are married to rich, somewhat older men. Sometimes these are former loves of the heroes. These women often look like the most expensive possessions of their wealthy husbands, all dolled up in elaborate clothes to match their husbands' fancy houses.

A Confrontation

Andrew Duggan and Virginia Mayo have their final confrontation in their house. The characters often move, so that they are framed against some background region.

Also, there is a hexagonal window high up the staircase.

The Hotel: Geometry

The final shootout takes place in front of the Palace Hotel. This area is one of Boetticher's large open spaces.

The Hotel is frequently shot so that its facade is parallel to the frame of the screen. This makes it one of Boetticher's rectilinear building facades. However, the left hand side of the Hotel slops away around a corner, making the facade less purely flat than most such Boetticher buildings.

The Palace Hotel has a covered porch. This porch is angled, and forms one of Boetticher's strange-shaped 3D boxes. Towards the end of the battle, the villain moves towards the rear of the porch. He becomes one of Boetticher's men in a box-like region. The villain ducks under a porch railing, to leave the porch. This gesture oddly seems to emphasize his containment by the porch.

Comanche Station

Comanche Station (1960) is the last of the Boetticher-Kennedy Randolph Scott Westerns.

Plot Structure

Comanche Station has a plot structure somewhat like Seven Men from Now. In both films, we learn little about the characters right away, instead seeing them in action. Only gradually in both films, do we get their back-story. These revelations occur step-by-step throughout the films. Each step brings us deeper insight. One should see Comanche Station before reading this article, which has SPOILERS.

Seven Men from Now has a mystery structure, and a mystery subject matter, looking at the aftermath of a robbery-killing. By contrast, crime elements are absent in Comanche Station. And there is no central mystery that gets unravelled. However, the hero of Comanche Station is quite "mysterious", and we only gradually learn his nature, his moral code, the character of his present-day activities, his history and the motivation for his actions. This unravelling goes through a number of stages.

There is also a mystery of sorts about the heroine, and her relationship to her unseen husband. This has no crime aspects - but it has something of a "mystery and solution" structure all the same.

Sign Language

The hero uses Native American Sign Language vigorously, in an early scene. This recalls the policemen hero of The Killer Is Loose communicating through a gesture during the phone bugging scene.

Camera Movement

Comanche Station is full of pans. They are largely slow and stately, following the slow progress of the riders through the Western landscape. They follow Boetticher traditions, in being: The film also has a number of tracking shots. These also tend to follow the characters' movements. They start out right in front of the column of moving riders, and gradually move towards the viewer along with the riders. The riders tend to be arrayed in a diagonal line in such shots, with the camera also moving back along this diagonal.

Strange Shaped Spaces

Comanche Station largely takes place outdoors, and there is little opportunity for the box-like spaces that often contain characters in Boetticher. But the trough into which Scott pushes the heroine to protect her during the Indian attack certainly qualifies. This trough is trapezoidal, making it exactly the sort of odd-shaped space that Boetticher loves. It is connected by an odd angled overflow arrangement to a square well, which further emphasizes the unique geometry of the construction. Like the alleys in One Mysterious Night and The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, this space is connected to the rest of the world through an angle that is not 90 degrees.

Much bigger than Boetticher's usual spaces are two fenced-in regions. One is at Comanche Station. The other is the front yard of the heroine's home, at the end. Both of the spaces are used to block off people, with people standing inside or outside of the fence also being separated in terms of the plot. Both regions look like pathetic attempts by humans to build something, in a huge, indifferent desert landscape.

The House: A Rectilinear Exterior

The husband's house at the end, is one of the rectilinear building facades that run through Boetticher's work.

As is common in Boetticher, it is full of recesses and gaps. There is an open space between the house and some sort of shed or barn, which are linked by a covered walkway. And there is a big open space visible inside the barn.

The low vegetation through which the hero and heroine ride toward the end, on the way to the house, resembles a bit the lettuce field in The Killer Is Loose.


The hero has a coil of rope attached to his saddle. It makes a circle that is conspicuous.

Male Groups: The Native Americans

The Native Americans are largely seen as a male group, like the policemen in One Mysterious Night. The have special costumes marking them off as a group, like the police. And just as the police in One Mysterious Night were often linked to phallic symbols of poles and nightsticks, so are in the Native Americans in Comanche Station constantly associated with phallic symbols: spears, the rifle, arrows, standards, even the horned helmet worn by one man.

Male Groups: The Entourage

Dobie (Richard Rust) and Frank (Skip Homeier) are the entourage of the bad guy. In some ways, they are the sort of young punks that fall in with the villain, and come to a bad end: a common type in Boetticher films. But Dobie also has an idealistic side, that lifts him above this level. He and Frank also form the sympathetic male pair, that one found in Boston Blackie and Runt in One Mysterious Night. Like that pair, Dobie and Frank are shown sleeping near each other.

Also like Boston Blackie, Dobie and Frank dress in leather, wearing sets of fancy chaps. The two men are dressed alike in some ways, a Boetticher tradition: they are wearing shirts without vests, and chaps, giving them a similar silhouette. But they are in different colors. Frank is more conventionally male, in a blue shirt. Its ruled checked lines suggest graph paper: a cool rationality. And indeed, Frank is a cold man who is willing to kill for money. The paleness of his blue shirt, and his white chaps, also suggest a lack of passion. By contrast, Dobie's bright red shirt suggests feelings. But it also separates him from traditional male gender identity.

There is a comedy scene in which Dobie reads the stage coach schedule, with great difficulty. He is both pathetic in his lack of skill, and admirable in his persistence and determination to read. Boetticher will return to this subject, with the admiration he has for the schoolteacher in Stopover. This was the era just after Sputnik, when Americans became deeply concerned with improving educational levels. Both of these films reflect that milieu.

Skip Homeier, a great actor cast in a small role as Frank in Comanche Station, does a wonderful job with his line reading, praising Dobie's reading. He gets all sorts of shadings into this line, both comic and a bit frightening.

When Frank is found in the river, Dobie immediately jumps in and swims out to him. His concern is contrasted dramatically with the relative indifference of the other characters. Also striking: the straight line of his swimming, directly away from the camera. This contrasts with the curve of the river.

Dobie cradles Frank, in a gesture recalling a Pieta. The impression one gets is that Dobie loves Frank.

The body floating in the water recalls the final episode of Paisŕ (Roberto Rossellini, 1946).

Dobie and Frank perhaps resemble an earlier pair, Fante and Mingo from The Big Combo (Joseph H. Lewis, 1955). Fante and Mingo are a gay couple, who work as henchmen for the film's villain. Despite being on the side of the bad guys, Fante and Mingo are oddly sympathetic. Dobie is sympathetic too, even though he and Frank work for the very unsympathetic villain of Comanche Station.

After Frank's death, Dobie starts getting a moral awakening, while looking at Frank's saddle. Soon, Dobie is sitting on the saddle. This is a variant on the scenes in other Boetticher films, in which men sit on leather chairs. Dobie undergoes a full scale reformation, while in intimate contact with his friend's most important possession.

But Dobie's reformation is not enough to pull him away from the villain. He values this connection - and it destroys him. This is another skeptical Boetticher look, at the danger of being someone's Number 2. Once again, Dobie is another Boetticher man who wastes his life being a Number 2 to a man or cause that is completely beneath his talents.

The villain and Dobie ride similarly colored horses. This is a variant on the Boetticher image of men who dress alike. No less a thinker than Bazin told us to pay attention to the color of the horses in Seven Men from Now.


The little boy runs in a straight line to his mother, the way Dobie swam to Frank. Such straight line motion is the image of love in Comanche Station. Soon, the boy will guide his father along the same path, at his mother's suggestion. This too is a love image. But it is made slowly and with an effort.

The husband has his own pole imagery. He grabs on to a post of the house porch. Soon, a longer shot shows the house facade, full of pillars and posts. All of these seem like "pole images" related to the husband. He presumably built this house, and these poles are both phallic symbols, as elsewhere in Boetticher, and symbols of a marriage. Finally he uses a long stick to walk: the most ironical of pole symbols. It looks like a sign of weakness. But it is also phallic and enabling.

The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond

The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960) is a gangster film. The sinister "hero" is another of Boetticher's comic trickster characters, always up to some clever scheme. But unlike the often more sympathetic tricksters in other Boetticher, such as Maverick, Legs Diamond has a mean, nasty streak. Many of his schemes are malicious and harmful.

Several of the exteriors are studio sets, perhaps on a back lot. This filming technique recalls Boetticher's early B-movie thrillers, such as Escape in the Fog, which is also full of such studio-constructed cityscapes.


The pawnshop full of clocks, recalls the clock store in Escape in the Fog.

We see a switchboard at the apartment building lobby. Legs deduces that a phone call is taking place, from activity he sees at the switchboard.

Store Window: The Robbery

The robbery sequence is elaborately staged around a store window. We see shots from both inside the store, showing Legs trying to rob the jewels in the window, and from outside, showing what the public can see. Sound editing has what the public says outside be unheard inside: a good effect.

The finale of Escape in the Fog has the public viewing a store window. As in The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, they eventually become alarmed, angry, and take action. The two sequences show a Boetticher tradition.


Boetticher gangsters and dictators sometimes have big wall maps, showing areas they control. In The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, there is perhaps an odd, comic echo or burlesque of this. Not-so-tough gangster Jesse White loses his power to Legs in the German restaurant. Behind Jesse White on the wall, is a small, antique map of the world.


Boetticher's characters are often thirsty. In The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, this is linked to lessons about alcohol. The nice guy choreographer drinks water, which the sinister Legs helps him get out of cooler.

Meanwhile, the dangers of alcohol are shown:

Overhead Camera Angles

Boetticher sometimes likes steep, overhead camera angles. In The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond these include:

Camera Movement

The camera moves at a high level through a studio backlot representing a city street. It arrives at the signs for a dance studio, on the second floor of a building. Nice panorama that concentrates on buildings rather than action or people.

A Point Of View (POV) camera movement, shows what Legs sees as he looks over the jewelry store roof, while preparing the robbery. This too is purely architectural.

After the robbery, the couple leave the movie theater. This is the start of a long take. They are briefly separated by a mounted policeman on a horse. They cross the street. Then they move down a very long city sidewalk, accompanied by the moving camera. This last part of the take is what David Bordwell calls a "walk-and-talk". But the shot as a whole is quite complex.

A camera movement at the jail, opens with a stationary look at a sign on the jail wall. The camera then moves, following the hero as he walks through the jail, seen through the grill work. This shot echoes a longer camera movement in According to Hoyle, which starts on a sign in a casino.

When Monica betrays Legs to the killers at the end, we see a long take camera movement that starts above the killers' car, moves down to shoot through the car windows.

Later in the same street, is the final shot of the movie. The heroine talks to the cop. Then the camera cranes up, signally that the film is ending, and we get a dialogue-less street scene. Rain begins: some of Boetticher's weather. Vignettes show various pedestrians. There are also more mounted police, reminding us we are now back on city streets, the type of location seen at the start of the film: a full circle. In the crowd earlier, a young man in a trenchcoat seemed well-prepared for the rain that comes.

Strange Shaped Spaces

The hero of The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond shows an affinity for odd-shaped spaces. The hero shows a propensity for movement, in all of these spaces: When he is waiting by the elevator at Rothstein's, he takes up a polygonally shaped angle of the room, different from the other henchmen. (Shades of Fritz Lang, who loved polygonal regions.) And soon Legs is inside the elevator, another space that is always shown from outside, making it look both more complex, and emphasizing its spatial, box-like properties as a whole.

When going to kill henchman Moran on the fire escape, Boetticher gives an overhead view of the alley. The alley turns at a polygonal corner. The whole alley image forms an irregularly shaped, giant box. This is one of the most striking images in the film.

When Legs is shot and recuperating in bed, we see the cavity of the Murphy bed behind him. Legs is essentially in a different space from everyone else in the room - and an unusual one.

When Legs visits his old Sergeant to get shooting training, he goes down into an areaway outside the Sergeant's apartment. The areaway is a large space, and visually fascinating. It has a partly sloping roof, giving it a polygonal shape. It also contains an arched doorway, something which appears in other Boetticher films.

Frenchy's curved desk creates a space behind it, where Frenchy sits.

Rectilinear Shaped Spaces

A woman at the hotel has a vending area, where the hero charges items. This vending area is not strange-shaped: it is a pure, simple rectilinear area. She is one of several women in Boetticher films who have vending stands.

There are other rectilinear box-like spaces, not strange-shaped, in the film. All of these spaces have people inside them:

An area not quite rectilinear is in the final scene: the canopy outside the Columbus Arms, when the police take the body away. This scene, emphasizing Legs getting cut down to size, is an echo of the comic funeral scenes in other Boetticher films.

In an alley behind the night club, there is a long balcony. In a camera movement, we see Legs move to one end of the balcony, then watch him go down some stairs to the floor of the alley below. This region is rectilinear, but complex. It recalls a bit the balcony-with-staircase at the end of Horizons West, although that was structured a bit differently. It also recalls the long dock with a staircase leading down in Killer Shark.

We often see into other rooms in the interior sets. Some of these other rooms can have box-like effects:


Boetticher films are often full of long poles. These probably represent phallic symbols.

Arnold Rothstein's bed has three tall poles, sticking up from its head board. These have sculpting on top, and certainly look like phallic symbols. The bed is where aggressively sexual Rothstein beds his beautiful mistresses. It is certainly a site of sexuality. I have never seen any decorations like these poles in any other film, or in real life.

More conventionally, some gangsters carry big, long guns. These are a staple of gangster films set in the 1920's. They are hardly unique to Boetticher. (A portrait still of Robert Stack in the anti-gangster TV series The Untouchables (1959-1963) shows Stack gripping a huge, endlessly long tommy gun sticking up straight in front of him.) Still, they are consistent with the pole imagery in other Boetticher films.

In his last scene, Moran is loading his long gun, like the soldiers cleaning their guns in Seminole. Moran's bedstead is full of circular and spiral shapes, unlike Arnold Rothstein's.


Through most of the picture, Legs is in a series of spectacular suits. These are "three piece suits", that is, with vests. Suits with vests suggest business clothes and business success. Like Robert Ryan's business suits in Horizons West, Legs' clothes suggest his aspirations for wealth, power and commercial success.

Also: Robert Stack in The Untouchables was frequently shown in vested suits. Such suits perhaps evoked the gangster milieu of the 1920's to viewers in 1960.

Legs' tuxedo also comes with a vest. It is very dressy. It is NOT party clothes: Legs wears it for his job as a dancer.

Legs gets in leather clothes, a Boetticher favorite, at a key moment. The newly expert marksman Legs is executing his first hit. Legs wears a leather jacket for this. It is sexually suggestive.

Legs is bare-chested in bed, like Rock Hudson in Seminole. Both men's broad shoulders and upper chest are bare. But we don't see either man's abs or stomach. The emphasis in both cases is on what big shoulders the men have.

Costumes: the Allied Enterprises syndicate scene

When Legs confronts the syndicate at the end, he is in different clothes than in the rest of the film. Legs is now in rich man's garb: a fancy scarf that conceals his shirt and tie, a Chesterfield-style coat that might be worn over formal wear, a fancy hat. These clothes express wealth. But they are not really business clothes. For most of the film Legs was in business suits: now he is wearing gear over his business suit and tie that conceals them. The costume suggests Legs has lost his business orientation and skill, and is now a decadent rich man who has money but not ability. Indeed, Legs will get out-powered by the roomful of syndicate men who dress and act in a business-like manner.

Many of the syndicate men at Allied Enterprises are older men, in clothes that suggest board members of top corporations. But there are also three younger, good looking men. These men are in conventional business suits, and suggest that the syndicate can draw on business ability that now out-classes anything Legs can offer:

The row of men containing these last two turn their heads in unison, at one point. Visually, this underscores that they are working together as a team. They seem much more powerful than Legs.

Hong Kong: Colonel Cat

Colonel Cat (1960) is the only episode of the Hong Kong TV series directed by Boetticher.

A big Thank You to Mike Lewis, who enabled me to see Colonel Cat on the big screen.

Links to Escape in the Fog

Colonel Cat reminds one of Escape in the Fog (1945), made by Boetticher fifteen years earlier. Both have: It is somewhat unusual to see Boetticher reverting to a mode of filmmaking he had used fifteen years previously. Perhaps this was part of the appeal to him of making Colonel Cat.

Colonel Cat is set in 1960. But its plot is centered on events that happened during World War II, over 15 years before. These strongly influence the modern day events. This gives Colonel Cat the feel of a World War II thriller, even though it is set in 1960, rather than during the war.

The Chinese Doctor: Forensic Scientist

The police doctor who does the autopsy and forensic work is a brainy, articulate and sympathetic character. This is a highly positive, non-stereotyped portrait of a Chinese scientist. He recalls the equally non-stereotyped Chinese agent in Escape in the Fog. Boetticher had a strong commitment to Civil Rights, and positive portraits of all races.

The summer before, the short-lived U.S. TV series Diagnosis: Unknown (1960) was set in a pathology lab, based on the prose fiction of Lawrence Blochman. (Boetticher was not involved with Diagnosis: Unknown.) The team included a non-stereotyped Indian scientist, Dr. Mookerji. Like the Chinese doctor in Colonel Cat, this is a respectful, intelligent look at skilled Asian scientists doing forensic work. Both portraits should be better known.

The portraits of pathology work in Diagnosis: Unknown and Colonel Cat are intelligent, serious and detailed. While of course they lack scientific discoveries made since 1960 such as DNA analysis, they are otherwise just as good as modern-day depictions of forensic work on TV. They form a creditable achievement.


Boetticher likes trickster characters. Rod Taylor's reporter hero in Colonel Cat is mainly a classic good guy. But two episodes have Taylor taking on trickster behaviors. SPOILERS: SPOILERS. Both of these schemes have Taylor allegedly "tricking" good guy policeman Chief Inspector Campbell. First we see Taylor's tricks, which work. But immediately afterwards, we learn that the policeman has not been fooled. He has knowingly gone along with Taylor's alleged "tricks", partly because he approves of Taylor's goals. And partly because he likes Taylor's "enterprise".

The early Boetticher film One Mysterious Night (1944) showed reformed crook Boston Blackie and his police official friend Inspector Farraday enjoying Blackie's tricks and the policeman's threats of arrest, as a fun game. Taylor is an honest reporter, not a reformed crook like Boston Blackie. But there is something of the same feel in Colonel Cat. Both Taylor and Campbell perversely enjoy Taylor's tricks, regarding them as a game of wits. There are male-bonding aspects in such games, between the two men.

These trickster aspects are another link between Colonel Cat and Boetticher's early B-movie crime thrillers of the 1940's. However, such reformed-crook vs authority figure trickster games also appear in late 1950's Boetticher films like Point Blank (1957) and Ride Lonesome (1959).

Boston Blackie enjoys Inspector Farraday's threats to arrest him. The Sheriff in Point Blank likes to lock trickster Maverick up in his jail, with a seeming sternness that is perhaps a game - although this is less explicit and more subtle than with Inspector Farraday. Similarly, the policeman in Colonel Cat expresses satisfaction at the end that he has Taylor under his control in the hospital. The film immediately shows that the wily Taylor is not actually under control - although it also strongly hints that this is with Campbell's informed consent.

Geometry and Groups of Men

In One Mysterious Night a group of policeman form a V-shaped wedge, while walking in the street. In Colonel Cat a group of reporters form a circle while waiting outside a police lab for a story. Both geometric figures are striking. Soon the reporters on on the move, in a "procession" like the cops in the earlier film.

A group of reporters who cover the police are also present in One Mysterious Night. Like the reporters in Colonel Cat they wear business suits.


Tully is the hero's friend. He is an earthy type, and seems to be one of the working class characters running through Boetticher.

Tully runs a saloon: on of the bars in Boetticher films. He and the hero have drinks: Boetticher characters are always thirsty.

Fairly elaborate camera movement follow the hero in Tully's saloon. This recalls the Chinese restaurant camera movements in One Mysterious Night: another link to this early Boetticher film.

Tully and the victim male-bonded while in the World War II Japanese prison.

Location Filming in Hong Kong

Colonel Cat mixes location exteriors in Hong Kong, with interiors reportedly shot in studio sets in Los Angeles. I do not know if Boetticher went to Hong Kong to film these location exteriors, or whether they were done by a second unit without Boetticher's help. A nice shot features curving roads above Hong Kong: curving roads being a Boetticher favorite.

1950's American TV detective shows like Mike Hammer mixed location exteriors shot in New York City, with interiors made on studio sets. These exteriors were shot silent. They would have little or no dialogue, but would have sound effects added later on. A similar "silent film for exteriors" approach seems to be used for Colonel Cat. Only one of its Hong Kong exteriors has any dialogue.

A Group

Many of the good guys are crowded into a living room, in an early scene. This anticipates Stopover, which also features are large cast crowded together into a small living room.

Treasures: A MacGuffin?

Like many other Boetticher films, Colonel Cat centers around a search for a valuable treasure.

In many ways, these are what Alfred Hitchcock called MacGuffins: objects around which the plot swirls, but which have no inherent significance. In Colonel Cat this treasure consists of looted bonds. The treasure could have been jewels or gold or cash, and the story would have been little different: the bonds have no "inherent significance", but like other MacGuffins, are merely something that drives forward the plot.

Treasures in some Boetticher films are linked to family businesses or work, and a related family tragedy:

This link to family work and tragedy does give the treasures strong emotional significance.

Architecture: Doors and Facade

The warehouse with the buried treasure has one of the complex, geometric building facades Boetticher likes. The doors make complex geometric patterns: something common in Boetticher. But unlike some other outdoor doors in Boetticher, they have no bolts. The strong diagonals of the doors are also atypical - but geometrically pleasing.


Boetticher likes poles, and other long objects that seem phallic. In Colonel Cat: Boetticher likes to link poles with revolving objects. A pole-like flashlight is set near on round compass with a moving, revolving needle.

The Rifleman: Stopover

Stopover (1961) is a Boetticher Western about which nobody seems to know. It is the only episode of The Rifleman TV series directed by Boetticher. The show is around 25 minutes long, like most episodes of the series. Joseph H. Lewis directed 49 episodes of The Rifleman, many first rate. One wishes there were a similar huge body of Boetticher TV films.

An Ensemble: Meals, Drink, and Prayer

Like other Boetticher movies, Stopover is an ensemble piece, about a group of characters. Series regulars Lucas and his son Mark are less central here than they are in other Rifleman episodes. The meal, with six people around Lucas' table, is the biggest crowd I've ever seen at Lucas' ranch. Such a communal experience is typical of Boetticher.

Young Mark says Grace before the meal. Like the funeral prayers in Buchanan Rides Alone, this comments in a revealing, and slightly comic way, on the characters and the story.

People in Stopover are always drinking: coffee, liquor, water, medicine. Boetticher characters are really thirsty. One recalls the coffee always being served by women in Seven Men From Now, and the saloons in Decision at Sundown and Buchanan Rides Alone.

Boetticher Traditions: Links to Seven Men from Now

Stopover shows many typical Boetticher situations. It is about a group of people thrown together in isolated quarters, while traveling out West. A group that is riven by sexual tension over one sophisticated, strong woman in their midst. And by greed over an alleged treasure, and by tension between good guys and outlaws. And with trouble stirred up by a bitingly sarcastic man who knows how to push everyone's psychological hot buttons, by telling unpleasant truths. In short, it's right in the tradition of Seven Men from Now, The Tall T and Comanche Station.

However, there are big differences. There are no demons inside these characters, and no one who is essentially a gangster. This leads to a complete different resolution from any of the Ranown cycle of Westerns.

The casting of Adam West also subverts Boetticher traditions: maybe in a good way, and certainly in ways understood by the director. West is a man who oddly embodies class. He was ideally cast both as the heroic Batman and his secret identity, millionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne. West has a gentlemanly, intellectual way of speaking, that serves his character here well. While tall, handsome smoothies like West tend to be corrupt gangster types in Boetticher - Robert Ryan in Horizons West, Craig Stevens in Buchanan Rides Alone, Legs Diamond - the noble West suggests something very different. West also reverses imagery and outcomes associated with Michael Dante in Westbound. And his back-story has links to some Randolph Scott characters in the Ranown films. Since much of the film is about the mystery of West's character, I will not say anything more or spoil the plot.

Sexual Ambiguity

The sarcastic man makes a big deal about how the heroine failed to arouse interest in Christopher Rolf (Adam West's character) during the stage coach ride, even though she flirted with him relentlessly. This leads to the question: is this character gay or straight? Later, the heroine and Rolf become friends. But Rolf never in fact expresses sexual interest in the heroine. There is no actual "signal of desire", to borrow a phrase from Andrew Sarris. This is in contrast to Lucas and Mark, both of whom show explicit, unmistakable signs of being attracted to the heroine sexually. Rolf in fact remains ambiguous to the end of the show. Such ambiguity about male characters, not clearly shown to be gay or straight, is found elsewhere in Boetticher.

The Kitchen Knife

Mark is peeling potatoes with a huge kitchen knife. This is one of the phallic symbols that run through Boetticher. The giant size of the knife, a bit big for peeling potatoes, underscores this visually. Mark drops it, when he hears about sharing space with the glamorous female visitor. It is quite funny, and indicates how nervous Mark is about women: common with teenagers.


This whole characterization and mystery of Rolf (Adam West) is helped by the pure black clothes costume designer Robert B. Harris has for West. These were usually reserved for gunslingers and desperadoes, both on The Rifleman, and in Westerns generally. Later, West will sleep in Lucas' black leather chair, keeping to his color scheme. When West gets out of the chair, Boetticher gives us a close-up of the lower part of West's body, both front and back, highlighting many details of his costume.

The heroine is also in black clothes, something unusual for a Western, and which serves to link her to West. Such coordinated outfits in Boetticher are typically worn by an outlaw and his henchmen: all-male groups. Here, both West and the heroine are social outsiders. Are they bad people? That is part of the mystery of the show.

The whiteness of the snow that is everywhere is also striking. Boetticher gets a great deal of mileage out of it in his images.

Even though this film is in black and white, not color, Boetticher puts emphasis on colors that viewers can see, like the intense black of the costumes, and white of the snow.

Overhead Camera Angles

Boetticher includes two overhead angles showing the stagecoach outside the McCain ranch: one at the start of the show, the other near the end. I do not recall seeing such overhead angles at the ranch in any other episode of the series. Similarly, there is a high angle at one point inside the living room, also atypical.

Strange Shaped Spaces

At the beginning, there is talk when Mark nearly goes under a tilted ladder in the barn. This forms a triangular region, one of the "strange shaped spaces" one sees in Boetticher. These are large, oddly shaped, three-dimensional regions in which the characters move. Such spaces are part of Boetticher's visual style.

Mark sleeps behind a hanging blanket, through whose open bottom he can see the heroine disrobing (just her feet - this is a family show!). His half of the bedroom behind the blanket is a tight space in which he is placed.

West and Melford wind up standing on top of the stagecoach at the end. This recalls the way Legs Diamond is up near the skylight. A slanting barn roof is above them, creating another strange shaped space.

The overhead angles in front of the ranch emphasize the box-like nature of the porch: we see its roof and pillars that support it. The steep angle also makes the stagecoach look like a box. The overhead angle recalls the similar high angle on the box-like alley in The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond.