Sunday, September 9, 2012

Western Essentials – Six Black Horses with Audie Murphy

This is one of Burt Kennedy’s screenplays and I think one of his best. This underrated film opened in 1962 and would have slipped into obscurity if not for Audie Murphy. Because of his presence the film crops up every few years in retrospectives on the western genre. Over time it has become a fan favorite. Recently it even played on the Western Chanel. I would love to see a restored print on DVD like they did with Burt Kennedy’s other classic screenplay, Seven Men from Now (starring Randolph Scott).

Six Black Horses is one of my top ten favorite westerns. It is not as action-packed as Audie Murphy’s other westerns, but the literate script, great acting and location scenery in St. George, Utah make this a special film. Saved from being hanged as a horse thief by Frank Jesse, (Dan Duryea), Ben Lane (Audie Murphy) and Frank meet up with Kelly (Joan O'Brien) who pays them to take her to a little town to be with her husband. Unknown to them, Kelly is setting Frank up and wants to kill him because he killed her husband in a shootout. Encounters with Indians makes Frank decide he doesn’t want to go further. Eventually, it comes to a showdown between Ben and Frank.
Running a scant 80 minutes under Harry Keller’s direction, Dan Duryea and Murphy are great together. Duryea had previously worked with Audie Murphy in Ride Clear of Diablo and Night Passage, two equally fine westerns. The sometimes poetic script by Kennedy adds another level to what might have been an average oater. When I interviewed Burt Kennedy years ago he made it clear that Audie Murphy was his hero.
Six Black Horses is available on Region 2 DVD but not region 1. If any of you executives at Universal Studios happen to read this……well, I reckon it’s about time you did Audie Murphy’s westerns right. 

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