A Western Obsession
"Ten Wanted Men" could have been a good western if it hadn't been made during the 50s, the boom time of the run of the mill cowboy movie. I say it could have been good because at its heart it has a storyline built on sexual tension and jealousy, but what gets delivered ends up routine except for an explosive ending. To put it simply not only is "Ten Wanted Men" a routine western but also a routine Randolph Scott western with him for the most going through the motions of playing the tall hero, the same sort of thing he did in a lot of his 50s westerns.
Wick Campbell (Richard Boone) has always been jealous of John Stewart (Randolph Scott - The Bounty Hunter) and his vast empire and he becomes even more jealous when John's nephew Howie (Skip Homeier - The Gunfighter) shows up and starts carrying on with Maria (Donna Martell), a young woman who as a girl Wick took in. When Maria runs away from the possessive Wick to live with the Stewart's his jealousy and obsession boils over and hires a group of men to cause trouble on Stewart's ranch, murder his brother and eventually go after John himself. Along with a small group of men who are opposed to Wick's reign of terror John has to find a way to escape from a house that they are pinned down in and stop Wick before he kills everyone.
For about the first 10 maybe 15 minutes "Ten Wanted Men" is quite good, we have what appears to be a stagecoach robbery which turns out to be a prank played by John Stewart on his brother Adam and nephew Howie, it's corny but at least it grabs your attention. And then we get for me the best part of the movie as we learn that not only is local businessman Wick Campbell jealous of John Stewart and his vast empire but also jealous of anyone who gets close to Maria a woman he took in as a young girl who is now a very attractive woman who grabs the eye of Howie. It stokes Wick's jealousy of the Stewart family and we understand that he wants Maria for his own as he forces himself on her to get a kiss leading to Maria fleeing to the protection of John Stewart.
Sadly after this reasonable opening "Ten Wanted Men" for the most becomes routine as Wick seething with rage and jealousy hires a small army of cowboys and sets about not only trying to get Maria back but making trouble for Stewart and his family. There is gun fights, fist fights, cattle stampedes and murder but it is all pretty much your routine sort of action and drama which filled countless westerns from the 50s. It does build to a reasonable moment of drama as we have John Stewart and some men who oppose Wick pinned down in a house but even then it doesn't really come alive. Well not right until the end with a surprisingly explosive ending, something which is at least a bit different to the norm.
"Ten Wanted Men" ends up being so routine that the performances from various actors both new and established feels like they are just reciting their lines, going through the paces for their pay check. As such we have Randolph Scott seemingly on auto pilot as John Stewart, tall, moral and fearless whilst Richard Boone is almost pantomime evil as Wick. I could go on because every actor from Skip Homeier to Jocelyn Brando comes across like they are just doing the minimum to get the movie made on time.
What this all boils down to is that "Ten Wanted Man" whilst starting with quite a reasonable idea ends up very ordinary. Basically it is a western which is typical of so many 50s westerns and whilst there is nothing really terrible about it, although the acting is poor, there is nothing good or memorable to make it stand out. But at just 80 minutes if you want some simple 50s western action then "Ten Wanted Man" would probably work.