Man in the Shadow (1957)

Written by John Chard on August 19, 2017

The Bingham County Bully.

Man in the Shadow is directed by Jack Arnold and written by Gene L. Coon. it stars Jeff Chandler, Orson Welles, Colleen Miller, Ben Alexander, John Larch and Barbara Lawrence. Uncredited music is by Hans J. Salter and Herman Stein, and cinematography by Arthur E. Arling.

The cattle town of Spurline is ruled by Virgil Renchler (Welles), one man refuses to bow to his despotic rule - Sheriff Ben Sadler (Chandler).

Obreos No Son Permitidos A Traves De Esta Cerca.

The above statement means that field hands are not permitted beyond this fence, it's an opening salvo that greets viewers of this atmospheric and relevant CinemaScope picture, and it's something that perfectly sets up the unseemly tone of the story.

The story is simple enough, a town is run by an unsavoury business man who thinks he and his cronies are above the law, the townsfolk think he is as well and tow the line, even in view of the overt racism and treatment to those of other ethnicity. When a murder is committed it brings in the upright and loyal to the law Sheriff, who as you might guess will have to stand alone against tyranny.

"Now you're shocked? All you decent people were shocked? For god's sake why? Because my name's Ben Sadler instead of Juan Martine, cuz I'm a tax payer instead of a drifter?"

With mood established, both in narrative thrust and monochrome magic, film is more concerned with political bile, the abuse of power and troubled consciousness than being an action piece. You may well know how this is all going to end, but it's told and performed in such a gripping fashion that it holds court from first frame till last. A number of striking images would grace many a film noir, the night shots of the town, a dastardly crime perpetrated in the shadow of a swinging lamp, the ominous lighting of the Renchler Ranch, and then there's the potency of the criminal acts, which are admirably constructed. Both Arnold and Arling proving to have keen eyes for visual impact.

Welles doesn't have to stretch himself but makes a telling mark as the big bad, while Larch does a nice line in snarly henchmen villainy. Sadly where Miller is concerned, as Renchler's daughter it's a token role that any gal could have played, the role seemingly only serving to have her strip to her undies and be annoyed with her dad. Head and shoulders above everyone is Chandler, there are those who call him wooden (amongst over things), not a bit of it. The right role, such as this, showcases his worth, his subtleties, his physicality and a calming grace that makes one lament his too short career and life.

Thematically this sort of piece has been done much better elsewhere, but this is laudable stuff all told and well worth discovering for potential first time viewers. 7/10