Black Horse Canyon (1954)
Outlaw the Wonder Horse
"Black Horse Canyon" is one of the truest westerns you will ever watch, not because it is an authentic tale of cowboys but because it is a movie about a young man in love and making a fool of himself. It is this side of the movie, the embarrassment of young Ti as he falls for the sexy older Aldis which delivers the entertainment although having said that the actual story of a wild stallion being caught and broken is just as entertaining. In fact as westerns go "Black Horse Canyon" is very different because whilst we have a bad guy this isn't a movie about fighting and the usual western stuff but about people.
Del Rockwell (Joel McCrea - Ride the High Country) has taken care of orphan Ti (Race Gentry) ever since he found him as a 12 year old sweeping up in a saloon, now many years later they are setting up ranch together and looking to capture some wild horses including a wild black Stallion. Nearby rancher Jennings (Murvyn Vye) not only takes exception to Rock and TI but wants the wild stallion for himself and he is not the only one as Aldis (Mari Blanchard - McLintock!) who runs another ranch trained the Stallion when he was a colt and now she wants the horse she calls Outlaw back. Joining forces with Rock and Ti, Aldis goes after the stallion but finds herself becoming the obsession of Ti's youthful eyes much to Rock's annoyance who also secretly likes her.
As westerns go "Black Horse Canyon" has the look of a typical 1950s western but the content is very different with just a couple of fights and no gun fighting at all. And it works because the story of Rock, Ti and Aldis working together to try and capture Outlaw whilst Jennings tries to prevent them is solid enough with enough drama. That drama comes from Outlaw being dangerous and uncontrollable which means not only is capturing him difficult but breaking him is even more dangerous.
Yet truth be told the story of this trio capturing Outlaw is just a vehicle for a romantic storyline and what a good storyline it is. There is something authentic about watching young Ti getting his head turned by the shapely Aldis and becoming deaf to wise words from his friend Rock. You can see where it is going because at the same time you know that despite trying to wind each other up Rock and Aldis have a thing for each other and so when Ti finally discovers the truth and is both embarrassed and humiliated it isn't a surprise. But whilst predictable this romantic plot plays out nicely, with plenty of sexiness thanks to Mari Blanchard as Aldis and amusement from Ti showing off.
As such "Black Horse Canyon" is all about the trio of Joel McCrea, Race Gentry and Mari Blanchard and each play their part nicely. From McCrea being the older and more laid back Rock to Gentry's loved up puppy as Ti these are well played recognizable characters. Although to be honest Mari Blanchard steals the camera, partly because she does deliver a nice performance as a slightly manipulative woman but because she is beautiful and director Jesse Hibbs exploits this at every opportunity.
What this all boils down to is that "Black Horse Canyon" is a pleasant surprise of a western because it is not all about gun fights, brawls and dealing with bad guys. Instead we have a nice drama surrounding taming a wild horse and a romantic love triangle which is amusing and it makes a nice change to your normal 1950s western.
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