(Average=3.00 out of 5; Total Number=3)
Director Stuart Heisler must have liked Susan Hayward because he cast her in 3 films - Among the Living, Smash up - The Story of a Woman, and this one, so in a way he is responsible for elevating her to A level productions. This one hovers in between a B and an A, independently produced, and using a lot of rear projection. The material is interesting in it's view of the American Indian, here presented as land owners and cattle ranchers, with Heisler beginning with a montage of the different kinds of Indians, and Hayward being 3/4 Cherokee. Presumably this is want accounts for her "wildcat" quality.
The screenplay by Frank Nugent and Curtis Kenyon, suggested by a story by Richard Wormser, is a cautionary tale of the emergence of oil drillers in Oklahoma and the effect they had on the environment of the cattle ranchers. We begin with the accidental death of Hayward's father, as the opportunity to hear the anti-oil lobby. However Hayward's form of revenge seems a direct violation of the conservation stance of her descendants, as she enters the oil business to be more successful than her main competitor, the man she blames for her father's death! Robert Preston appears as a "rockhound" engineer who helps Hayward strike oil, and matters reach a climax when she must decide whether to drill the property of her father's Indian friend, Pedro Armendariz.
The notion of Armendariz as a "crazy Indian" is introduced when he refuses to have his land drilled, he is threatened with being declared "mentally incompetent", and Heisler provides an extended and laboured use of montage to suggest his mental breakdown as he drives through fields of oil drilling towers and starts a fire laughing maniacally. Armendariz' view however is seen as a minority as other Indians seem happy to sell as much oil from their property and overlook the "smaller short term profit".
Of course, it is this very issue that produces conflict between Hayward and Preston, with Hayward's ambition seen to be clouding her true nature.
Preston's romantic interest in Hayward is somewhat a surprise considering the way she humiliates him at their first meeting, though I suppose men had to be tougher than usual in the period, but what is more humiliating is the way Preston out-acts her. Here Hayward relies upon big smiles and profile turns for charm, though her yelling at Preston at one point is unexpectedly loud.
Heisler uses horizontal slides, mini-montages, the unbearably bucolic singing of Chill Wills, Freudian symbolism in Hayward drinking from a large glass of brandy in front of Preston, and African-American servants for when Hayward hosts a society party, where Armendariz is a guest in tuxedo. We never actually see a servant serve him, since perhaps the irony would be too much.
Actually Three And A Half Stars (rating=3)
This review refers to the Alpha Video (Gotham) DVD.
Overall Quality of DVD: **1/2 /**** Sound: ** /**** Plot: **1/2 /**** Acting: ***/**** Cinematography: ***/**** Direction: **1/2 /****
The story is surprising in the fact that it deals with concern for conservation , the environment and treatment of native indians.
Of course, the oil companies paid no attention then nor now.
All the actors do very well - nothing great but very solid. Director Stuart Heisler is a good "B" director but I disagree with the reviewer that stated he "MADE" Susan Hayword a star. If anything Susan Hayword made him look decent just as Humphrey Bogart does with "Tokyo Joe".
The rear-projection scenes of the oil fields on fire are nearly flawless - I mean, I could not note the telltale signs of rear-projection (things appearing out of proportion or hazy etc.).
In my opinion, it's worth the asking price.
Conservation First (rating=4)
One will say one more film about oil in Oklahoma. But this film is different. It brings together several questions that are extremely important. First the alliance between the white entrepreneurs and the Indians. The Indians are divided on the question of the conservation of their land as grazing land, as cattle-raising land due to the easy money oil brings in. We will note that justice does not hear conservationist arguments. Second the position of women in this adventure and women are shown as entrepreneurial just like men, equal to men, though they can use their charms to convince people of the value of their decisions, not force but soft conviction. Third the problem of conservation : how can the land not be ruined and wasted by oil exploitation ? The answer is to do it in a non-intensive way because this intensive method gets a lot of oil in a short period of time, but it also ruins the land through pollution. The answer is in an exploitation that leaves the land clean and usable all the time for cattle or other activities. Then the money brought in is less massive in a short period of time but regular for a long period of time. Such a way is defended by scientists and engineers but opposed by entrepreneurs. It is an accident that will determine the state and various congressional representations to regulate oil exploitation in such a way that nature is not spoiled. Fourth oil culture is not just the exploitation of crude oil, but it creates a whole network of services and roads for the cars that use that oil to run and refill when necessary. It is a structurizing activity whose social consequences are extremely far-reaching. A very well done film on very modern issues. Conservation must be a major objective of man on earth : think of the long-run future instead of the short-term profit.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU