Robber’s Roost—George Montgomery, Richard Boone, Peter Graves, Sylvia Findley, William Hopper, Bruce Bennett (1955; Dir: Sidney Salkow)
This a revenge/manhunt western, mixed with a range war. And all this in a B movie starring good-looking but unexciting George Montgomery in his flat-crowned 1950s cowboy hats.
The mysterious Tex (aka Jim Wall, played by George Montgomery) throws his lot in with a gang of rustlers led by Hank Hayes (Richard Boone). Boone and his men are on their way to work for crippled cattleman Bull Herrick (Bruce Bennett), figuring to steal his cattle.
When they arrive, they find that Herrick has also hired a rival gang of rustlers led by Heesman (Peter Graves), figuring that the two bunches of thieves will keep each other honest. Herrick’s sister Helen (Sylvia Findley) has also arrived from the East, hoping to persuade her brother to return east with her for an operation that will restore his ability to walk and ride. Also in the mix is neighboring rancher Robert Bell (William Hopper), who has asked Helen to marry him once before and still hopes to persuade her to say yes.
A good guy and two bad guys: Montgomery, Graves and Boone. But which is which?
Tex, who is thought not to be very interested in women, becomes Helen’s riding companion, delegated by Hayes to keep her from seeing things he doesn’t want her to be aware of. Initially, the rivalry between gangs has the desired effect, but eventually they start cooperating to steal the entire herd. At the climax, Hayes makes off with the herd and Helen, with Tex trying to keep her safe.
It turns out Hayes had robbed Tex’s ranch and raped and killed his wife, and Tex has been tracking him down not only for revenge but also to exonerate himself from murder charges. After a four-way shootout in the mountains (Hayes’ gang vs. Heesman’s gang vs. a posse led by the sheriff and Bell, while Tex and Helen are trying to escape and Hayes is trying to catch them). Luckily, Hayes doesn’t die before telling the sheriff about Tex’s innocence, and Tex and Helen ride off together.
George Montgomery’s Tex is remarkably taciturn, and he wears a quintessentially 1950s hat (short, flat crown and wide brim) as he usually did. Richard Boone’s Hayes is almost continually blinded by lust; this isn’t his best performance as a screen villain. The dying confession that absolved a wrongly-accused good guy became kind of a cliché in 1950s westerns, and it was often not terribly believable. There are weaknesses in the writing here, even if the star doesn’t talk much. In color, filmed in Durango, Mexico, from a story by Zane Grey.
Historical note: There were a number of places in the west referred to as Robber’s Roost. They tended to be either where stages or mining coaches were often robbed (in Montana’s gold country near Bannack and Virginia City, or in southern Idaho’s Portneuf area, for example) or where outlaws sought refuge, as with the remote spot on the Outlaw Trail in the red-rock deserts of southern Utah where Butch Cassidy’s gang and others hid out. None of them had much to do with rustlers.