Blood on the Moon (1948)
Directed by Robert Wise this slightly above average Western drama is dripping with testosterone though its story is more film noir-like than anything else. The plot follows Jim Garry (Robert Mitchum) as a man who finds himself in the middle of the familiar battle between a rancher and some homesteaders. With few options given the failures in his past he ventures out to accept a job with an old friend Tate Riling (Robert Preston). Along the way Garry encounters his friend’s opposition John Lufton (Tom Tully) and his two daughters Amy (Barbara Bel Geddes) and Carol (Phyllis Thaxter). Riling has riled up fellow homesteaders like Kris Barden (Walter Brennan) to deny Lufton the land he needs for grazing his cattle. However Riling has an ulterior motive which once Garry learns of it causes conflict between the two old friends. Additionally Garry has discovered a hidden division between Lufton’s daughters. Frank Faylen plays Jake Pindalest the government’s representative on the Indian reservation for which Lufton’s cattle is intended; he’s involved with Riling as well.
Garry figures out that Riling’s motive for involving the homesteaders in a fight against Lufton is a front for his own selfish plans to become the wealthy middleman in Lufton’s cattle sale to the government. Riling is not only using Lufton’s daughter Carol pretending to be in love with her in order to gain inside information but he’s also hired gunmen like Garry to ensure his plans are carried out. But Garry even though he’s tough & a skilled shot is not a killer like the others Riling has hired and learns that the $10000 he’s been offered is for him to be Riling’s front the middleman between Lufton’s transaction with Pindalest who’s also on Riling’s payroll. Garry decides he’s not too enamored with the deal nor Riling anymore and ends up saving Lufton’s life in front of his daughter Amy who had initially mistrusted Garry. A relationship begins between Garry and Amy which will develop into a romantic one later thanks to Garry’s change of heart and open assistance to Lufton against Riling. Garry and Riling also have a “knockdown drag out” barroom fight which effectively ends their friendship though it too begins one between Garry and Barden. Garry “throws in” with Lufton by kidnapping Pindalest to delay the government’s deadline for the sale of the beef. The film ends later predictably with a shootout typical of such stories.