February 17, 2023


The Sundowners (1950/85 min) / High Lonesome (1950/80 min)
Review by Mr. Paws😼

My wife has an uncle named Arthur, who’s really old school. How old? The guy still likes to record gobs of TV shows and movies using a VCR. I’m at a loss at how he’s even able to find VHS tapes to keep recording with.

Arthur’s an old school western fan, too. He devours countless novels by the likes of Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, Max Brand and a slew of other dead guys whose pulp paperbacks are generally found stacked in the back of musty used book stores. He might’ve read a lot of Alan La May’s stuff, too. La May’s arguably best-known as the author of The Searchers, which was later adapted into the classic John Wayne film. 

Though he didn’t write that particular screenplay, La May cranked-out plenty for other oaters released during the genre’s heyday, most of which have been largely forgotten over time. Two of them, The Sundowners and High Lonesome, are typically-disposable westerns that seem right up Arthur’s alley, presumably because he grew up on this stuff. There’s no western revisionism here…just a few hours of good ol’ fashioned horseplay.

"That's the end that goes 'boom', kid."
The Sundowners is the better of the two, featuring Robert Preston as notorious gunman Kid Wichita, who insinuates himself into a range war. Though he claims to be Tom Cloud’s ally, Wichita mostly appears to be trying to stir the hornet’s nest on both sides. Preston’s easily the best part of the film and looks like he had a lot of fun in the role. Elsewhere, he’s supported by a solid cast of B-listers, including Robert Sterling, John Barrymore Jr, Cathy Downs, Chill Wills and a very young and (believe it or not) almost handsome Jack Elam.

La May also assumes the director's chair (his only time) for High Lonesome, which is less interesting and a bit more convoluted, but still marginally entertaining. A young stranger, ‘Cooncat’ (John Barrymore Jr.), is accused of horse theft and killing a man, but claims he’s innocent. When a few other murders occur, Cooncat’s immediately suspected by some, but the real culprits are those who set-up Cooncat in the first place. This one features some of the same actors as The Sundowners, but lacks a dynamic bad guy like Preston.

Neither flick is gonna make anyone forget High Noon, but both are fairly entertaining low-budget horse operas. Perhaps for a few old school western lovers - like my wife’s uncle, Arthur - they might even be forgotten childhood favorites.

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