Connie Dickason (Veronica Lake - I Married a Witch) is sick and tired of rancher Frank Ivey (Preston Foster) bullying everyone in the valley and she is just as sick of her spineless father who not only goes along with what ever Frank wants but expects Connie to do as she is told and marry him. Determined to live life on her terms Connie sets up home with Walt Shipley (Ian MacDonald) the owner of a small ranch but finds that he isn't man enough when he runs off after Ivey starts putting pressure on him leaving his ranch to Connie. Refusing to bow to the pressure Connie decides to keep the ranch going and hires town drunk Dave Nash (Joel McCrea - Primrose Path) to be her Ramrod which he reluctantly agrees to only if Connie agrees to keep their fight completely above board and legal. But whilst Dave tries to deal with Ivey the right way Connie is up to no good behind the scenes planning some under hand tactics to start a war and rid the valley of Ivey once and for all.
I nearly didn't bother with "Ramrod" because in a review I browsed before watching the writer said it was film noir more than western. Now the over use of the term "film noir" is something which riles me especially when someone says that a western is "film noir" because in my book the two don't go hand in hand. Having said that "Ramrod" is certainly no easy going western, it has style, a strong, scheming female and some treachery but it is still a western first and foremost.
What is unusual about "Ramrod" is that it is one which focuses on a strong woman, not completely unique as their have been other westerns which feature a manipulative female rancher but it lifts the movie and makes it interesting. But "Ramrod" is in fact also a very simple western as we have the damaged Dave, struggling with the loss of his wife, being the good guy who finds himself working for a woman who is hell bent on starting a war and devious enough to do things behind his back. Yet simple does not mean wholly predictable because whilst you can be pretty sure that Dave the good guy will still be standing come the end and might have found a way to move on from his wife's death you cannot be sure what will have to everyone else because most of the characters are bad guys. Yes even Veronica Lake as Connie is a badden and what a badden she is because she is small, attractive and occasionally fragile yet in the blink of an eye is strong and scheming.
The thing about "Ramrod" is that director AndrÃ© De Toth goes to town on the style and delivers one scene after another full of atmosphere. A scene where Dave enters the bar and gets wound up by one of Ivery's men, played by Lloyd Bridges, the combination of the music, the timing and the close up work gets you on edge knowing that something is going to happen. And there are many more from Connie watching her husband humiliated by Ivey's men when he tries to leave town to basically any confrontation between the two sides. Yet De Toth also manages to capture the vastness of the wild west with some great outside shots which take in the beauty of the surroundings.
What this all boils down to is that "Ramrod" is a pretty special western thanks to the styling and heavy atmosphere which director AndrÃ© De Toth creates. It also benefits from the attractive Veronica Lake who brings to life the manipulative Connie quite magnificently.