Richard Dix in Cherokee Strip (1940) (aka: Fighting Marshal)

A Western from a B Movie

When Texans Dave Lovell (Richard Dix) and Coy Barrett (Victor Jory) call and end to the long running feud between their families the Barrett family head to the town of Goliath, Oklahoma where Coy starts a bank as a front for the family crime operations which include money laundering, gambling operations and cattle rustling. But Dave Lovell arrives in town having been appointed the new U.S. Marshal bringing him right back into conflict with Coy Barrett and his family as he sets about proving they are up to no good.

"Cherokee Strip" which also goes by the name of "Fighting Marshal" is a bit of a curious western as it screams b-movie with it s familiar cast of western stars. Yet beneath the b-movie facade is a genuinely interesting storyline, some decent performances and a script which avoids banal dialogue. It means that you might sit down to watch "Cherokee Strip" expecting a western which requires minimal attention yet find yourself drawn in to the unfolding drama.

Victor Jory in Cherokee Strip (1940) (aka: Fighting Marshal)

The thing about "Cherokee Strip" is that it proves you can make something obvious interesting by approaching it with purpose rather than just as another movie. As such the storyline is in some ways generic as we have Lovell trying to get the Barrett family for the various crimes he is confident they are behind but with Coy Barrett being elusive whilst Lovell knowing what tricks he will employ to try and throw him. Yet it draws you in because there is detail to it and a slow revealing of what is going on rather than everything being served up on a plate with in minutes of it starting. It is almost twenty minutes in before we understand how a feud ended but in doing so it makes us realises the significance of a character we met earlier on who Lovell thought was dead.

A good example of this detail is in the obligatory romantic element as Dave Lovell meets Kate Cross and there is obviously a spark between them. But the scene is played out with detail as they talk and Dave acts bashful around her when she asks whether he is married. It isn't the most subtle of scenes but it is far more intricate than you would normally get in a western from around the time this was made. It is the same with the plot as whilst not complicated it has moments of intricacy which take you by surprise.

What "Cherokee Strip" also has is a nice variety of characters from Lovell the hero to the love interest Kate as well as comical deputies and shop owners plus of course the nefarious Coy Barrett and his rough and ready family. And all the actors put in a truly decent effort to try and deliver a performance and create characters rather than just doing the minimum. Again a scene which highlights this is when some business men approach Lovell and tell him their suspicions of Barrett being corrupt and we see Dix bringing both charm and thinking to his character so he is more than just a hero, he is almost real.

What this all boils down to is that "Cherokee Strip" is a pleasant surprise as whilst it looks like just another b-movie it has considerable more depth and detail that a typical b-movie would offer. In fact whilst "Cherokee Strip" fails to offer a storyline that is anymore than cliche it deserves to be better known for what it achieves with such a regular story.