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Silver Lode1954

  • 3.8
A stranger in town becomes the target of a lynch mob in Allan Dwan's feverish Western noir, made at the height of the nation's "Red Scare" witch hunts and now acclaimed as one of the most concise anti-McCarthy parables ever made by Hollywood. About to marry the lovely Rose (Lizabeth Scott) on the 4th of July, straight-ahead Dan Ballard (John Payne) finds his nuptials interrupted by "marshal" Ned McCarty (a sneering Dan Duryea) who claims he’s wanted for murder. Innuendo and suspicion soon turn the townsfolk from caring neighbors to a braying mob and it is up to Rose and one of Dan's ex-lovers to keep our hero from the gallows. Famed noir cinematographer John Alton shrinks the West's expansive plains into a claustrophobic nightmare of disorienting camera angles and harsh high-contrast lighting, the better to match the film's rapidly escalating sense of utter paranoia. With SILVER LODE, Dwan turns the American frontier into an American prison, with a madman named "McCarty" ready to destroy anyone who stands against him. - Jason Sanders

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1 member likes this review

White hot paranoia in the Old West, fast-paced and entertaining. As 1950s sci-fi films dealt metaphorically with the A-bomb, some western films dealt with McCarthy's Communist witch hunts. HIGH NOON is the famous one, JOHNNY GUITAR is the weird one and the low-budget SILVER LODE is the simplest and most explicit one. If its spartan plot of a man who becomes a pariah when he's wrongfully accused of crimes by a shady US Marshal isn't quite enough to put its message across, how about the fact the Marshal is named McCarty? And how about the fact that the film is set on the 4th of July so that the whole town is festooned in patriotic banners? There's a flag on display in nearly every single exterior shot. Seasoned B-movie director Allan Dwan beats us black and blue with the red, white and blue. This is not just a story about the Old West, he wants you to know--it's a story about America. By the end of the film, even the local prostitute wears a gown made up of the colors of the flag.

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Member Reviews (9)

7-3-2013 -- I was tipped off to this film by a capsule review in this week's New Yorker, prompted by showings today and on July 6th at MOMA. Don't let the silly trailer fool you: this movie is a McCarthy era witch hunt allegory, and very well made, including a magnificent tracking shot that has to be seen to be believed. Unfortunately, Fandor's VCI-sourced print is a stinker, I hope that MOMA has a better one, as Silver Lode seserves it.

2 members like this review
33856.small
top reviewer

White hot paranoia in the Old West, fast-paced and entertaining. As 1950s sci-fi films dealt metaphorically with the A-bomb, some western films dealt with McCarthy's Communist witch hunts. HIGH NOON is the famous one, JOHNNY GUITAR is the weird one and the low-budget SILVER LODE is the simplest and most explicit one. If its spartan plot of a man who becomes a pariah when he's wrongfully accused of crimes by a shady US Marshal isn't quite enough to put its message across, how about the fact the Marshal is named McCarty? And how about the fact that the film is set on the 4th of July so that the whole town is festooned in patriotic banners? There's a flag on display in nearly every single exterior shot. Seasoned B-movie director Allan Dwan beats us black and blue with the red, white and blue. This is not just a story about the Old West, he wants you to know--it's a story about America. By the end of the film, even the local prostitute wears a gown made up of the colors of the flag.

1 member likes this review

Written by unsung female leftist screenwriter Karen DeWolf, author of over fifty films, Silver Lode is an allegory for the McCarthy-ism and blacklisting of the 1950's, but is even more meaningful in 2017. A crooked liar comes to a Western town that is festooned with American flags for the 4th of July, and subverts justice by falsely accusing an innocent man of crimes he himself has committed. How easy is it to turn a man's friends and neighbors against him? Today's audience might find this even more convincing than the audiences of 1954. Directed by the great Alan Dwan, inventor of the crane shot and other bits of cinematic language, Silver Lode is really something to behold, more than the sum of its parts. And it has to be Dolores Moran's finest hour.

1 member likes this review

A very good Western movie with so much application to real world scenarios even today. This movie shows how tenuous a person's word was back then and it is an even greater problem now.

1 member likes this review

If it is an allegory for McCarthyism, it is a superficial one. The “leftism” of the film feels more like the self-congratulatory liberalism typical of the imperialist core. To paraphrase Brecht, it is an operation of capitalist ideology to reduce the complexities of the masses in struggle to a plot, background or setting intended only for the creation of great individuals. American anti-communism is ultimately considered an aberration of "American democratic values" (the plot hinges on whether or not McCarty is a legitimate US Marshal) rather than its logical consummation, and it understands the impact of this aberration only in relation to the upstanding white American. This it shares with Jay Roach’s Trumbo, another deeply flawed attempt at Hollywood capital writing its own history.

The performances are serviceable, and scenes can unfold with a certain ominous inevitability that the viewer doesn’t realize until the action is over - the barn scene, for example, is very well written - but there are better films for representing this period of American history.

Soothing!

Reallyb liked it

Very good

only interested in western cowboy movies