Headlined by Randolph Scott, Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend is an engaging, oftentimes funny Western that’s currently available as a Manufactured on Demand title (MOD) from the Warner Archive Collection. The feature also contains excellent supporting work from Angie Dickinson and James Garner, who stars as one of Scott’s fellow soldiers.
The story begins on a somber note, as Captain Buck Devlin (Randolph Scott) is too late to save his brother from an Indian attack. His sibling’s death was due to faulty bullets, and Devlin, along with two Army compatriots (James Garner, Myron Healy) head to Nebraska to catch the suppliers that were indirectly involved in the killing.
Although the officers get their clothes stolen while skinny dipping, a group of Quakers offer the men assistance. Dressed as Quakers, the trio head into Medicine Bend, only to find a town that’s rife with corruption. Angie Dickinson is Priscilla King, the brown-eyed beauty who helps run a competing supply store that’s being bullied by the local cutthroats, and Dani Crayne also stars as a salon girl who’s in cahoots with Medicine Bend’s baddies.
Randolph Scott, known as the stoic cowboy from such films as Ride the High Country and Seven Men From Now, brings his dry humor and flair for the absurd to the film, as he alternates between a Quaker and gunslinger outfit (he masquerades as a robber to turn the tables on the bad guys) while trying to bring the culprits to justice.
Though James Garner, Angie Dickinson, and Myron Healy all get their moments to shine in this engaging tale, it’s Dani Crayne who’s the absolute scene stealer. Nell Garrison (Crayne) knows how to lure local cowboys into the town saloon with her beauty and promise of libations, yet underneath her tough as nails exterior lies a good gal waiting to break out. It’s almost love at first sight when Nell meets Sergeant John Maitland (Garland), and her gradual transformation is one of Shoot-Out’s narrative high points.
It’s befuddling that Crayne (she bears a striking resemblance to Scarlett Johansson), didn’t have a bigger career in Hollywood. She plays Nell with a ton of moxie and charisma, and though she also played Helen of Troy in The Story of Mankind, her showbiz career ended in 1957.
One theory is Crayne, who was married four times (Donalde Crayne, singer Buddy Greco, actor David Janssen and stuntman Hal Needham) was too busy for Hollywood, and this following Los Angeles times profile on Crayne displayed a bit of her playfully sarcastic persona.
Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend is a Western that hangs its hat on humor and a bit of action, and it’s a mixture that works well for the parties involved (Scott has a terrific fight scene during the final chapter). It’s also great to see Randolph Scott crack a smile or two, and Garner and Dickinson are always terrific. Discovering performances dished out by little known actors is also a great thing, and Dani Crayne is one of the biggest reasons to have a Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend.
Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend is an MOD title that is available on Warner Archive’s official site.