Power stars in this western suspenser, playing an assistant to aged stagecoach manager Buchanan at the Rawhide Relay Station, tucked away in a remote section of Arizona. When Hayward, a former riverboat entertainer, passes through with her orphaned niece, Dunn, she is told that stage
robbers are terrorizing the area and that she'll have to wait until the following day to leave town. Soon afterwards, outlaw leader Marlowe arrives at the station with his gang--Tobias, Jagger, and the highly volatile Elam--to knock over a coach that is carrying $10,000 in gold. Buchanan is gunned
down when he recognizes Marlowe, leaving Power in charge. Assuming that Hayward is Power's wife, Marlowe locks the two, together with Dunn, in a back room. Knowing that they will be killed in the morning, Power and Hayward plot to escape. With a knife that Power has smuggled in, they begin digging
a hole through the room's adobe wall. The hole is small, but not too small for Dunn to slip through unnoticed, and when Hayward realizes that her niece is missing she pounds at the door until Elam opens it. A struggle ensues and Marlowe, assuming that Hayward is being molested, gets tough with the
lecherous Elam. Elam shoots Marlowe and Tobias, killing them both. In a panic, Jagger flees. During the turmoil, Power slips into a corral to get a gun he's hidden. Elam forces Power to come out unarmed by taking Dunn hostage, but before any harm can come to the girl Hayward grabs a rifle and
drops Elam to the ground. When the stagecoach comes in, Hayward and Dunn bid farewell to Power, who stays behind to run the station. Written by one of Hollywood's finest screenwriters, Dudley Nichols (THE INFORMER; BRINGING UP BABY; STAGECOACH), RAWHIDE is a rather atypical addition to the western
genre. The wide-open spaces are missing, as are the thundering hooves of horses, romance on the range, and a roving protector-hero. Instead, Power plays his character as an antihero--he does not wander the plains, choosing rather to settle down in a managerial job; he kills none of the outlaws,
leaving that task to Hayward; and he watches Hayward (with whom he has had no romantic involvement) leave instead of taking her in his arms.
Hathaway and Nichols have created a suspenseful single-location drama, which relies more on tension and characterization than gunplay. While not wholly successful, RAWHIDE is definitely of interest, especially for those willing to accept variations on the usual western themes. Power's first
western since JESSE JAMES 12 years previously and director Hathaway's first western in 20 years, it bears a close plot resemblance to Fox's gangster-genre movie SHOW THEM NO MERCY (1935). For television RAWHIDE underwent a title change to DESPERATE SIEGE to avoid confusion with the once-popular
network show of the same name.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Power stars in this western suspenser, playing an assistant to aged stagecoach manager Buchanan at the Rawhide Relay Station, tucked away in a remote section of Arizona. When Hayward, a former riverboat entertainer, passes through with her orphaned niece,… (more)