Killing the Killer that Saved his Life
A group of Indians approach Murphy, Duryea and O'Brien in the middle of nowhere, they want to trade for O'Brien. That scene is about the only scene in "Six Black Horses" which will make you sit up and pay attention because it is the same scene which appeared in "Ride Lonesome" a few years earlier, almost word for word just with different actors. Aside from that scene well "Six Black Horses" is a rather ordinary western which does little justice to a reasonable idea, that of a widow hiring the man who killed her husband and his quick gun friend to escort her across Indian Territory with the plan of having her husband's murderer killed.
"Six Black Horses" actually stars reasonably well, not in the fact we meet Ben Lane (Audie Murphy - Seven Ways from Sundown) horseless and walking across open range but when he lassoes himself a wild horse he ends up being lynched by a group of cowboys for horse stealing. It leads Ben to meet Frank Jesse (Dan Duryea - Night Passage) who saves him from the noose and together they ride for the town of Perdido where after stopping a dog fight they get shot at by two hired guns. All of which brings them to meet Miss Kelly (Joan O'Brien - The Comancheros) who offers them $1,000 each to escort her through Indian territory to her husband.
Now as we learn along the way Kelly's husband is dead and it was Jesse who killed him and this whole journey is just a ruse to have Jesse killed with Kelly hoping Lane will do it because he would get all the money. Of course this leads to an element of loyalty as Lane owes Jesse for saving his life and so brings in to question whether he could kill a man he's known but a few days. And of course there is greed because $1,000 is a lot of money and $2,000 is a hell of a lot.
The trouble is that whilst this set up is interesting what we watch is all rather mundane, well at least once Lane, Jesse and Kelly start their journey across Indian Territory. There is danger from Indians, there is more danger from Indians, there is an encounter with some outlaws before more danger from Indians. It's just too routine and even when it comes out that Kelly wants Jesse dead and leads to tension between all 3 of them it never gets any more exciting. Compared to Audie Murphy's westerns of the previous decade it all seems so mundane.
Truth be told Audie Murphy looks like he is on auto pilot through out the movie and never really once delivers the energy or belief needed. Joan O'Brien is little better as whilst beautiful she doesn't have the anger of a woman looking for revenge. That leaves Dan Duryea who thankfully as Frank Jesse does deliver some sort of character and one who is dangerous and slightly untrustworthy although at the same time the character is a cliche.
What this all boils down to is that "Six Black Horses" is a routine and frankly forgettable western which delivers nothing new. It is a shame as the basic idea is good and there are a few stand out scenes but for the most it is mundane.