Sog.: dal romanzo Gunmans’s Chance di Luke Short. Scen.: Lillie Hayward. F.: Nicholas Musuraca. M.: Samuel E. Beetley. Scgf.: Albert S. D’Agostino, Walter E. Keller. Mus.: Roy Webb. Int.: Robert Mitchum (Jim Garry), Barbara Bel Geddes (Amy Lufton), Robert Preston (Tate Riling), Walter Brennan (Kris Barden), Phyllis Thaxter (Carol Lufton), Frank Faylen (Jake Pindalest), Tom Tully (John Lufton), Charles McGraw (Milo Sweet). Prod.: Theron Wart per RKO Radio Pictures 35mm. D.: 88’. Bn
In the first few minutes, Jim Garry is nearly trampled by a herd of cattle, then arouses the suspicion of a group of ranchers. It takes some time before we learn why he has come to that part of the country and is greeted with hostility. Few films embody the vagrant aspect of the Mitchum persona – man without a star and without a cause – to such an extent. Here he does not even have a secret, unlike the character he played the previous year in Pursued, a film superior to Blood on the Moon but one too influenced by Hollywood-style psychoanalysis to be representative of Mitchum’s – or Walsh’s – talent. Wise’s film is also set mainly at night, and the character’s incessant toing-and-froing between the opposite sides of the homesteaders and cattle ranchers, plus the Indian reservation, convey both his uncertainty and the misunderstandings that are created along the way: a job which he accepts, for money, without knowing its implications; a cause embraced out of a basic sense of right and wrong; a friendship betrayed or thwarted; an unpredictable love.
Luke Short was a novelist who wrote western books often adapted for the movies: no less than seven films between 1947 and 1951, made by veterans like Sam Wood and Richard Thorpe, or young and ambitious directors like André De Toth and Robert Wise. In a period of transition in which a new generation echoed the anguish of the post-war period, Blood on the Moon (produced by a studio with a long tradition of cheap westerns) benefitted from Wise revisiting other genres in which he had previously worked. The fight in the saloon plunged into darkness – a clear reference to film noir – was highly praised by contemporary reviewers.