Woman They Almost Lynched Blu-ray review
It’s towards the end of the Civil War and outlaws are starting to emerge and, as the narration tells, begin “murdering, looting, pillaging, riding, shooting, slashing their way through one of the darkest pages of our history.”
After the brief history lesson, the story shifts to Border City, a neutral town in the Ozarks. The crowded community only looks empty when there’s a lynching planned, in which case everyone gathers in the square to watch the event.
The town sits between the Missouri and Arkansas border, which puts it between Yankee and Confederate territory. Said border happens to run directly through the middle of the Lead Dollar Saloon, which is the site of an early killing that starts over Kate Quantrill (Audrey Totter, who appeared in such classics as 1946’s THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE and 1949’s THE SET-UP), the wife of Confederate tough Charles Quantrill (Brian Donlevy, who earned a Best Supporting Actor nod for his turn in BEAU GESTE). That leaves the deceased saloonkeeper’s sister, Sally Maris (Joan Leslie, 1942’s YANKEE DOODLE DANDY), to take on ownership.
Considering the saloon’s location and that infamous outlaws Jesse James (western staple Ben Cooper), his brother Frank (James Brown, who would go on to star in the TV series THE ADVENTURES OF RIN TIN TIN) and Cole Younger (Jim Davis, whose most prominent role would be Jock Ewing on DALLAS) are in town, it’s only a matter of time before trouble starts getting kicked up and the popular lynching tree is eyed.
The guns may be loaded, the horses saddled up and the men ready to take what they feel is theirs, but the set pieces involving the men are far less arresting than the viewer might expect (one of the more “exciting” scenes doesn’t go much beyond firing bullets from behind a tipped over table). Still, there is a steady level of suspense for the duration to keep viewers interested (despite the title giving away the fact that the woman in question won’t be lynched).
This comes as a result of the females in the film. Had WOMAN THEY ALMOST LYNCHED focused solely on the men, it would have been a forgettable effort. But since it has a collection of strong females in the lead—Nina Varela, who would appear in JUBILEE TRAIL, which also featured Leslie and Davis, is given the crucial role of the mayor—it stands out. And when the action scenes with the men and their horses don’t entertain, it’s up to Totter and Leslie to pace towards each other and draw, in what is one of the most defining moments in the western genre. (That the Joan Crawford-starring JOHNNY GUITAR would come out the following year makes WOMAN THEY ALMOST LYNCHED seem that much more important.)
Director Allan Dwan (whose extensive IMDb lists more than 400 works, more than half of which are shorts)’s WOMAN THEY ALMOST LYNCHED is a unique film and a little-seen western that is long past due a rediscovery.
Video: 1.37:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Contrast is strong and the overall picture has a filmic look to it.
Audio: English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio. The dialogue and score are clear.
There are no special features on this release.