While Republic used many directors time and time again – John H. Auer, Allan Dwan, R.G. Springsteen, William Witney, George Sherman, Lesley Selander – none made as many pictures for the studio as house director Joseph Kane. The Plunderers marked the first foray into color for Kane and Republic ace cinematographer Jack A. Marta, and together they made the most of the studio’s new red and blue two-strip process. Trucolor, developed as a cost-effective alternative to Technicolor, was in its early stages when the movie was made. It was unstable; especially when it came to how it balanced light, and in The Plunderers night and day become one continuous stream. Anything white or light (a shirt, a face) has a highlight, taking on an ethereal quality and creating an immediate contrast to the down and dirty nature of a typical Western, the result seemingly suggesting its own new genre. Beyond the unique color, The Plunderers might seem like a conventional Western with saloon girls and bad guys on the lam, but as the plot progresses it quietly turns into something different. The relationships between the four main characters (played by Rod Cameron, Forrest Tucker, Ilona Massey and Lorna Gray) come to the fore and are unexpectedly mature and poignant. The men and the women mostly stand on equal footing when it comes to their relationships, which is a rare thing to see on screen generally and even more so in a Western. In turn, any simple delineation their characters might have of good or bad is washed away and replaced by a more complex and rich synergy of the two.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: James Edward Grant. Scen.: Gerald Geraghty, Gerald Drayson Adams. F.: Jack A. Marta. M.: Arthur Roberts. Scgf.: Frank Arrigo. Int.: Rod Cameron (Johnny Drum), Ilona Massey (Lin Conner), Lorna Gray (Julie Ann McCabe), Forrest Tucker (Whit Lacey), George Cleveland (sceriffo Sam Borden), Grant Withers (vicesceriffo Tap Lawrence), Taylor Holmes (Eben Martin), Paul Fix (Calico), Francis Ford (Barnaby). Prod.: Joseph Kane per Republic Pictures Corp. DCP. D.: 87’.
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Céline Ruivo (Cinémathèque française)