Thunder Over the Plains (De Toth, 1953)
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. –1 Peter 2:13-15
On the surface, what we have here is a rather simple and unoriginally themed film – an ‘outlaw’ standing up for what he knows is right. However, in this scenario, the outlaw is generally the protagonist, not a side character. Thunder Over the Plains follows the life of an army captain trying to balance his allegiance to both the army and the people of Texas. He has his duties, but he has his friends, one of which is the outlaw. Throw in an interesting love triangle and there’s a lot of interesting relational angles at play.
Randolph Scott is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. He is always able to so wonderfully portray a man dealing with a number of issues that rarely lets these issues visibly surface in his persona. When another captain comes to town and quite obviously starts to hit on his wife (well, obvious to everyone except for her apparently), he calmly lets nature take its course until action is required. At first he comes across as weak, but in reality he was just calm, not allowing hate to cloud his judgement until the time was right. Overall, a very interesting character. Additionally, the film’s cinematography is subtly fantastic. The dimly lit sets, use of handheld camera, and closeups are all very rare for a classic western, but very aptly used throughout. Man, I love westerns. 8.75/10