Great Title and Some Good Performances
Only-A-Child | 11/03/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Vengeance Valley" (1951) is not just a great title for a western, but a well-made, intelligent feature that should please Burt Lancaster and Robert Walker fans. A cattle baron (Ray Collins) takes in an orphaned boy (Owen Daybright) and raises him. His own son (Lee Strobie) is about the same age. Although Lee resents Owen they generally get along and share a lot of coming of age adventures on the ranch. But as they mature Lee's (Robert Walker) resentment causes him to become a slacker and the classic prodigal son. After a long absence he returns with a wife, appears to have cleaned up his act, and reconciles with his father.
But Lee's past includes a girl named Lily that he got pregnant. Owen covers for him, but this causes Lee to resent his stepbrother even more. When he suspects that his father's ranch and his new wife are slipping away from him, he sets up Owen to be killed by Lily's two brothers. Although this prodigal son-Cain and Abel stuff is hardly original, the two stars are excellent in their respective parts. Lancaster reins in his excesses and gives a nice controlled performance, with his suppressed energy just visible enough to give Owen a nice dimensionality.
Walker in convincing as a two-faced villain, still motivated by childhood jealousy but able to conceal it from everyone but the audience. Walker is relatively forgotten today, but was the 1940's version of James Dean; although his looks and style are more like a young Robert Vaughn.
When not occupied with its melodramatic story, "Vengeance Valley" has the look of an extremely well-produced documentary, going into great detail about the process of a spring roundup and providing a lot of very scenic backgrounds. A ranch hand named Hewie (Carleton Carpenter) provides an informative voice-over. The film features some great cattle scenes, a lot of good riding sequences, and a couple well staged fights. Watch for an early appearance by young Hugh O'Brian-just a few years away from starring in television's "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp".
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child."
A Good Cast in an Average Western
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 04/29/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Vengeance Valley is an average Western. Its best feature is a remarkably strong cast. This alone means that it ought not to be classified as a B film, for second features could not afford so many familiar faces, nor could they afford the fine location shooting which is to be found in Vengeance Valley. The cast perform quite well. Robert Walker always makes a better villain than a good guy. He portrays both weakness and malevolence in a performance which bears comparison with his more celebrated role in Strangers on a Train. It is always a pleasure to watch Burt Lancaster, but his acting lacks the authority which would be present in his later films. I always look out for Joanne Dru films, but this is not one of her best. The feisty and beautiful heroine of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Red River seems to have faded somewhat and it is possible to see in this film the seeds of her decline as a star. She would make no more important films after this. The story is interesting without being original. Walker and his foster brother Lancaster fight it out over Dru and Cattle. Strangely the `vengeance' of the film's title does not refer to this aspect of the plot, but to a sub-plot in which two cowboys seek vengeance on the man who made their sister pregnant. Still Vengeance Valley makes a more snappy title than Battling Brothers. This is by no means a classic Western, but it is perfectly competent. It may not linger long in the memory, but fans of the genre will certainly enjoy the ride while it lasts."
OK Western, poor quality tape
Foramdude | New York, USA | 02/24/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I purchased Front Row Entertainment's VHS version of "Vengeance Valley" and was bitterly disappointed. The video quality is poor and the sound track is no better. The story, from what I could make of it, is humdrum. If you're a Lancaster fan, however, the movie is worth having in your collection. And if you're a fan of wasting 20 bucks on a poor quality video, this is a tape for you!"
Scott O'Reilly | United States | 04/10/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is a sturdy western featuring beautiful color photography, and an interesting character study. Burt Lancaster plays a stolid, depedable foster son who reluctantly has to face down his reckless foster brother played by Robert Walker. Walker and Lancaster play off each other well, their naturally opposing acting styles heightning the conflict between these two. Unfortunately, Robert Walker, who made quite an impression in his short film career -- especially in Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" -- would be dead shortly after this film was released. A sad footnote to an overlooked but interesting film."