Same Old Saga
Former army Sergeant Jed Givens (John Larch) has turned to a life of crime and with his gang of outlaws rob an army payroll wagon which is being escorted under the command of Lt. Hemp Brown (Rory Calhoun). Having killed everyone except that Hemp, Jed leaves him with his gun and horse knowing full well that when Hemp makes it to his destination it will cast suspicion over his account of what happened. And it certainly does with Hemp being court-martialed for cowardice and his name published in every newspaper as being dishonourable. With just an old photo of Givens, Hemp sets about tracking him down in order to get his good name back although still abiding by the code of honour of the Cavalry which means he is unable to kill Jed in revenge for what he has done to him.
Smart ideas certainly can help a movie but they can't save it or at least that is the case of "The Saga of Hemp Brown" a routine 1950's western which occasionally grabs your attention with a well thought out plot element. As such "The Saga of Hemp Brown" is now one of those westerns from the 1950s which will be more interesting for those who have a thing for old westerns more than for those who seek excitement of the western variety.
So what are those smart ideas which help "The Saga of Hemp Brown"; well it is initially the set up as Jed Givens knows that when Hemp returns on his horse and with his gun his superiors won't believe his story especially with the added element of his superiors believing Jed to have been killed some months earlier. Sadly whilst a smart opening which grabs your attention after that it quickly goes down the routine root as Hemp sets about tracking Jed down to try and get his good name back. There are some nice touches, from Hemp's dishonour following him around like a bad smell to the honour he still stays true to as he won't kill for revenge but it as the title suggests what we get is a series of events as Hemp tries to find Jed. And just to put that in context there is also an obligatory romantic subplot when the exhausted Jed is nursed by a woman called Mona who falls for him.
Part of the trouble with "The Saga of Hemp Brown" is the acting because the likes of Rory Calhoun, John Larch and Beverly Garland deliver the same sort of performance of the same sort of characters which dominated the westerns of the 1950s. None of the acting is bad but it makes it only okay for those who enjoy 1950's westerns but ordinary and not very exciting for those who stumble across it looking for some western thrills and excitement.
What this all boils down to is that in the end "The Saga of Hemp Brown" is nothing more that just another okay western from the 1950s. It has a few smart ideas but for the most it is just routine and as such is now a western for those who are big fans of old westerns rather than those looking for western excitement.