THE SILVER WHIP will not be of any interest to those who don’t care for westerns, but fans of the genre may find it a pleasant little time-passer if they have an extra 73 minutes lying around.
Directed apace by Harmon Jones, knocked out for 20th Century Fox in 1953, it’s a modestly budgeted ($560,000) b&w bread & butter exercise designed to give some undemanding star-building fodder to two of the studio’s handsome second-string leads and an up’n comer of the day: Dale Robertson, 30, (as ‘Race Crim’–wouldn’t you love to actually say you know a guy named Race Crim? *), Rory Calhoun, 31, and Robert Wagner, 23.
Go into a drugstore back when (I think Fillmore was President, fetch my specs) and there would be a circular spinner rack with paperbacks. Among them would be a batch of slim ‘pocket-vest’ cowboy novels (something for grandpa). Fitting that bill, the screenplay by veteran Jesse L. Lasky,Jr. is from Jack Schaefer’s book “First Blood” (he is best known for Shane and Monte Walsh ). Whippersnapper Wagner is given reins on a stage-line run that gets hijacked by bad guys (perforated in due course). Mentor Robertson and sheriff pal Calhoun go after the varmints, with clashing views on how to deal with ’em—shoot on sight or string’em up (Dale) or capture for trial-by-jury (Rory). Local gals Kathleen Crowley and Lola Albright squeak their peace (I know, just let it go…).
No frills, no nonsense, nicely photographed, well-done action, decent work from the he-men. With James Millican, J.M. Kerrigan (kindly horse-shoe’n spouter of Shakespeare and other rosy high-falutin’ gibberish), Ian MacDonald, John Doucette (angry lynch mob harangue’r), Burt Mustin and— in the background somewhere— Chuck Connors.
*I had a friend named Race King, so I guess I win, at least some Crackerjacks.