Smile When You Say That: Randolph Scott in BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE (Columbia 1958)

The usually stoic Randolph Scott gets to show a sense of humor in BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE, his fourth collaboration with director Budd Boetticher. The humor comes from Burt Kennedy’s script, who did an uncredited rewrite of Charles Lang’s original, foreshadowing his own, later comic Westerns. The result is a good (not great) little film that’s not up to other Scott/Boetticher teamings , but still a gun notch above average.

This one finds Scott as the title character, crossing the border from Mexico to the unfriendly Agry Town, where it seems everyone’s an Agry, and they don’t cotton to strangers. Buchanan just wants to make a pit stop on his way back to West Texas, get himself a nice steak, a bottle of whiskey, and a good night’s sleep. But he runs into trouble at the saloon with young Roy Agry, who is gunned down by Juan de la Vega. Apparently, Roy raped Juan’s sister over the border, and when Buchanan tries to defend Juan from a beating, both men are hauled off to Sheriff Lew Agry’s jail, then taken to be hung!

Judge Simon Agry (see, I told you they’re all Agrys!), father of Roy and brother of Lew and hotel proprietor Amos, comes along with his hired gun Abe Carbo (a non-Agry!) and stops the lynching, giving a speech about serving justice properly. The trial results in Buchanan getting off, but Juan guilty of murder. Simon’s got ulterior motives, though… Juan’s padre is rich Don Pedro de la Vega, and the judge thinks the Don will pay big bucks for his son’s release. Buchanan is ordered to get out of Dodge (er, Agry) by Lew, with two “escorts” to make sure he doesn’t come back – ever! One of these is young Pecos, a West Texan himself who saves Buchanan’s life. Now Buchanan heads back to the border town, wanting his gun belt (containing two thousand dollars in gold) back, while the feuding Agry brothers scheme against each other for Don Pedro’s fifty thousand dollar ransom…

BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE is based on the novel “The Name’s Buchanan” by William Robert Cox under the name Jonas Ward. Cox was a prolific writer of pulp magazine stories (ARGOSY, BLACK MASK, DIME WESTERN) and paperbacks, who also used the pseudonyms Willard d’Arcy, Mike Frederic, Joel Reeve, Roger G. Spellman, and probably a few others we don’t know about! The character of Buchanan was created by William Ard, and after Ard’s death Cox continued the paperback series under his Ward nom de plume. Cox also wrote for episodic TV (like WAGON TRAIN, G.E. THEATER, THE VIRGINIAN, THE OUTER LIMITS, BONANZA, and ADAM-12).

The cast consists of sagebrush vets like Tol Avery (Simon), Barry Kelley (Lew), and Peter Whitney (Amos) in another of his signature slow-witted roles. Craig Stevens , the future PETER GUNN, is all black-hatted, steely-eyed menace as Carbo. Others in the cast include Bob Anderson, Joe De Santis, Terry Frost, Roy Jensen, and a young L.Q. Jones as the West Texan Pecos. One thing missing from BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE is a love interest for Scott… maybe that’s why they changed the title from “The Name’s Buchanan”! It’s a minor but definitely watchable entry in the Scott/Boetticher series, and if you’re a fan like I am, you’ll enjoy seeing Randolph Scott able to crack a smile for a change!

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