Cave of Outlaws (1951)
There's Gold in them thar Caves
As a fan of westerns it would be fair to say that when I come across a 1950s western I've never heard of I tend to think it will be just another b-movie which works a western standard storyline. It is why when I sat down to watch "Cave of Outlaws" I not only expected little but ended up pleasantly surprised by what was a refreshingly interesting movie. Here we have a clever story with plenty of mystery over the location of stolen gold and a location of some actual caverns which gives it a very different feel. Don't get me wrong because from styling to characters "Cave of Outlaws" is stereotypical but the actual story keeps you watching.
As a teenager Pete Carver (Macdonald Carey - Shadow of a Doubt) was arrested when the gang of outlaws he was with were tracked down to a series of caves after they stole gold from a train. 15 years later and Pete is released from prison and returns to the town where he grew up, nearby to the caves where Wells Fargo man Dobbs (Edgar Buchanan - Cheaper by the Dozen) is waiting and watching expecting him to go to the caves to retrieve the gold. Dobbs is not the only one interested in Pete and the town are over obliging to the former criminal as they also hope he goes and finds the missing gold. But whilst some welcome Pete with open up arms including the attractive Elizabeth Trent (Alexis Smith - Tough Guys), some including local business man Ben Cross (Victor Jory) are not so welcoming.
So as already mentioned from a styling point of view "Cave of Outlaws" is very much your stereotypical 1950s western. There are a few fist and gun fights, a variety of familiar characters and a dusty western town with all the regular fixtures and fittings. In a way it is this uninspired side of the movie which ultimately lets it down because the storyline is certainly more inspired. And the same can be said of the acting with the only thing memorable being the attractiveness of Alexis Smith as Elizabeth Trent.
As to the actual storyline well you might ask what is so interesting about a former outlaw returning to retrieve stolen gold. Well there are several things starting with the fact that those in the town are welcoming to Pete and extend him endless lines of credit which not only makes you wonder what will happen if he doesn't come up with the Gold but who is backing them. That leads us to wealthy business man Ben Cross who you initially wonder whether he has found the gold himself but then there is the fact he is more interested in Elizabeth Trent who not only is more interested in Pete but also has a missing husband who had gone looking for the Gold. And to add to the complexity is whilst it is unsurprising that Pete and Dobbs end up strange buddies we have the fact that when Pete goes looking for the gold there are signs that someone has been there before him. Basically there is enough going on in "Cave of Outlaws" so that whilst there is the stereotypical there is also a touch of mystery which nicely unravels.
The storyline is not the only good thing about "Cave of Outlaws" and there are some other nice ideas. There is an old fashioned duel scene which grabs you by surprise and you think why did they do that but then that leads to a nice bit of ingenuity over a unique bullet removed from an injured party's shoulder being crucial in evidence for another murder. But there is also the caves and what is special is that "Cave of Outlaws" was filmed in the Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico and that not only gives it a different look it also makes it feel authentic. With the way the structure of the cave throws shadows and the restrictions of space forces different camera angles it makes it a lot more interesting visually.
What this all boils down to is that "Cave of Outlaws" is a mix of being a very stereotypical 1950s western but one with an inspired mystery story and a great location. It probably isn't that entertaining for those just getting into 50's westerns but for western fans who have seen many a stereotypical 50s western the location and storyline makes this far more interesting and entertaining than you probably expect.
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