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The rifle, a perfect one-in-a-thousand specimen of the 1873 Winchester (.44-40), is won by James Stewart in a shooting match. Then it is stolen by his brother (Stephen McNally), who is being hunted down by Stewart for the murder of their father. Before the hunt ends, the rifle is lost & found by half a dozen other characters, giving Director Anthony Mann plenty of story line to tie together some classic horse-opera situations. Among the episodes: the scalping of a crooked trader by redskins; a deafening battle between Indians and the U.S. cavalry; the ambush of desperadoes in a burning house; a bank holdup and, finally, an exciting rifle duel on the side of a craggy cliff.
Strikingly photographed in black & white, the film is directed with an eye to realistic detail, an ear for the script's frequently natural dialogue and a knack for building suspense. It also has some good performances by Dan Duryea, John McIntire and Millard Mitchell, as well as Actors Stewart and McNally. Heroine Shelley Winters, who seems lost in all the uproar, might as well have been lost in the script.
The Big Hangover (MGM) has a theme reminiscent of the 18th Century legend about George, Duke of Clarence, who was reputedly drowned in a vat of malmsey wine. As modernized by Writer-Director-Producer Norman (Dear Ruth) Krasna, The Big Hangover tells how Van Johnson narrowly escaped a similar fate: when a French monastery was bombed during the war, he had to stand on tiptoe for hours in a cellar flooded with 100-year-old brandy. The ordeal left him so vulnerable to alcohol that even a glass of punch could set him talking happily to a lampshade.
To keep the comedy rolling, Johnson is represented as a sober-minded young attorney employed by a law firm composed equally of legal tricksters and practical jokers. He is also pursued by his boss's daughter (Elizabeth Taylor), an amateur student of psychiatry. Krasna has fleshed out the farce idea with a curious subplot about the law firm's efforts to keep a Chinese-American tenant out of a "restricted" apartment building. The result makes an odd layer cake composed" of alternate slabs of slapstick and preachment, none of it very digestible.
The Capture (RKO Radio) is a western with psychiatric overtones, a bright enough idea that didn't quite work out. Lew Ayres, an American oilman in Mexico, goes out after a payroll bandit and shoots the wrong man. Remorse, complicated by some amazing coincidences, leads him to break his engagement, quit his job, marry the murdered man's widow (Teresa Wright) and set out to clear the dead man's name. He is soon involved in a second murder, causes a suicide, and gets mixed up in a somewhat pointless chase sequence, in which he finally manages to salve his conscience just as the Mexican police are closing in.
Written and produced by Novelist Niven (Duel in the Sun) Busch, The Capture is told in a series of flashbacks that explain too much about Lew Ayres and not enough about the rest of the cast. Despite some good photography, a stark Mexican background, and a fine feeling for place and incident, the indecisive plot suffers from the same fuzziness that clutters up the dialogue.