The Battleground (1967)
Crown Comes to Cimarron City
For years the Outlet had belong to the cowboys but when Congress declares it free territory and the farmers started to arrive looking for somewhere to settle it caused tempers to flare. For U.S. Marshal Jim Crown (Stuart Whitman) it is one of the issues he finds himself having to contend with when he arrives in the lawless Cimarron City where even the army are unwilling to gwt involved with the land ownership disputes. To add to Jim's problems is the fact that one of Jim's old buddies, Bear (Telly Savalas), is the leader of the cowboys who thinks Jim will be on his side and is angry when isn't.
So to state the facts quickly; "The Battleground" is actually episode four of "Cimarron Strip" the 60s series which starred Stuart Whitman as lawman Marshal Jim Crown. Now usually I say that these episodes work as stand alone movies but you actually need to have a bit of knowledge of "Cimarron Strip" to what this one because whilst episode four actually tells of how Jim came to be marshal in Cimarron City whilst also introducing us to the other re-occuring characters such as MacGregor, Dulcey and Francis you almost need to know their relationships to understand it all. It also ups the ante in the comedy stakes as it introduces the characters with Percy Herbert and Randy Boone as well as Stuart Whitman going for over the top, larger than life performances.
But "The Battleground" is more than just a late introduction to "Cimarron Strip" it is also a western full of tension as we have this situation bubbling over as the cattle rancher who has lost his land plays dirty and fires most of his cowboys as he knows it will enrage them and lead to them going on the rampage not only against the arriving farmers but also in Cimarron city. That of course leads to the needed personal element as Crown has to deal with Bear, his old friend from days when Crown was on the other side of the law. It is a surprisingly tense drama which unfolds with the sort of action and western violence which was lost during the 70s when westerns such as this died up.
What this all boils down to is that "The Battleground" is actually more than just another episode of "Cimarron Strip" and not only does it introduce us to the main characters but serves up this tense western drama full of fraying temperatures over land ownership.
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