The Halliday Brand (J.H. Lewis, 1957)
There’s potential all over the place here but, in the end, the flaws weigh it down. Littered with stilted dialogue, entirely too many musical cues, and wooden performances, I actually wanted to dis-like this more than I did. But fantastic cinematography and an extremely intriguing plot execution are the film’s saving graces. First of all, I can always appreciate when a film uses long takes with movement. Establishing a shot, then maneuvering the camera to create a new point-of-view, or to follow always moving characters helps to feel as if you are actually there. And Lewis does that several times, helping to keep viewers involved in what could have easily become a very uninvolving film.
The eerie nature of the plot helps mask some of the issues as well. After a disagreement that causes a father and son to part ways, the son disappears and is present only through his acts of threatening vandalism towards his father (who, by the way, is not a good man). It’s not often in westerns that you get this ghostly tone. Usually the adversaries face each other man to man, and while there is some of that towards the end, I like the approach the middle portion takes. Overall, though, the flaws are heavy enough to be distracting, and it becomes too much to forgive. 7.25/10