IMDB user writes “ham-handed satire”, but I didn’t find it ham-handed at all. It’s somewhat a Western parody, but it’s not that the characters are unbearably macho (they’re actually kinda sharpshooting sissies, but that’s because it’s a 50’s musical) just that they follow “the code of the west”. There’s certainly not much Western about the look of the movie, which way out-fakes Track of the Cat in its deliberately artifical sets and backdrops. The movie was originally shown in 3D, so reportedly with the fakey sets it was supposed to feel like a stage production.
Reb Randall comes to town on the day they’re burying his brother, the much-hated Robin Randall. Reb doesn’t tell anyone who he is, just hangs out waiting to find out who killed his brother. Becomes friends with a fake Mexican who confesses to the killing, but wait, it turns out he was drunk and missed Robin, who was actually killed by the town’s self-professed coward (Robin killed the coward’s brother I think).
There’s no other killing, just some loving and lots of singing. Local song and dance sensation Calaveras Kate is sweet on town giant Jason Carberry, our hero is sweet on Carberry’s ward, and the Mexican fella falls for the daughter of a stuffy east coaster who has come to town to check up on things, having heard about the lawlessness of the wild west. The west is tamed at the end (with no help from the east-coaster), the code is thrown out, and it looks like a triple wedding on the horizon.
You wouldn’t think it from a plot description, but Kate is the star here and gets to sing most of the songs. Nobody here is an especially convincing actor, but the songs are nice and the movie’s just cool/weird enough to forgive all that. It’s also kind of awkwardly funny and half-heartedly romantic. Just good fun to watch a low-key (but quality) nearly-forgotten musical from back when it was okay for white people to play any race and school shootings were treated as light comedy. This was made three years before my other favorite white-people-with-painted-faces Western, Run of the Arrow.
Calaveras Kate: a very white Rosemary Clooney, also a singer who hardly did any other acting, appeared in White Christmas and Radioland Murders… George’s aunt.
Stuffy east-coaster: Reginald Owen of the ’38 Christmas Carol, who played the awesome butler in Double Harness.
Jason Carberry, who somewhat runs this town: Jack Carson from a bunch of films, always third or fourth-billed. This same year he was #3 man in A Star Is Born and Axelrod & Robson’s Phffft.
Our hero’s Mexican friend: Gene Barry, who played Dr. Clayton Forrester (!) in the original War of the Worlds, cameoed in the Spielberg remake, and starred in his own TV series through the 60’s. He does a good job singing in a low voice with a fake hispanic accent with his face painted brown.
Stuffy east-coaster’s pretty, black-haired young daughter: Joanne Gilbert, who was only in a couple other movies, including Gena Rowlands’ debut film The High Cost of Loving in ’58, directed by Rosemary Clooney’s husband José Ferrer.
Our nameless hero: Guy Mitchell, a singer who hardly did any other acting.
Jason’s ward, Latina Susana: TV actress Pat Crowley
Nonviolent coward who turns out to have killed our hero’s brother in the end: Buddy Ebsen, Holly’s ex-husband in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Jason Carberry again
Goofy desexualized Indian woman: Cass Daley, an unmistakably white singer/comedian.