Movies and Film

Death and Destiny at… – Hell’s Crossroads (1957)


One subject that has fascinated filmmakers since film began has been the story of the outlaw Jesse James and while it always makes for an interesting time at the movies, there are probably few that even come close to getting it right. Hell’s Crossroads is a film that takes liberties with the tale, changing things here and there to suit the narrative, to make it flow a little better and hopefully improve its dramatic effect upon the viewer. Like many films, biographical or not, they should not be taken as absolute fact for movies were made to entertain first, not to necessarily educate. Of all the truths in this movie that one can take away, there was indeed a man named Jesse James who was betrayed by a man he thought a friend, just not the way it was pictured here.

As a western movie, Hell’s Crossroads is serviceable and there is enough to keep the audience’s attention, if not to keep them entertained, but whether it was the script or the casting or a combination of both, it simply did not fully click the way it should have. Maybe it was because in the end, the lead as played by Stephen McNally was not a very likeable fellow, even when his character tried to change his ways for the better. As Victor Rodell, McNally was not all that terrible, but as a protagonist, one could hardly care the man in the slightest and thus when he found himself in either a good or bad situation, it mattered little to those watching. Robert Vaughn was little better as Bob Ford and the same could be said for Paula Collins as portrayed by Peggie Castle, the woman trapped in-between her love for Rodell and a life made easier without him. None of them would really win the audience over and as such, it did not bring any weight to the events taking place.

There are those that might like this film quite a bit, for as an anti-hero McNally did fine, but in a western, those that work best have a fairly obvious good guy and a villain one can hate on. Hell’s Crossroads did not really have one or the other, it had morally conflicted men and while a complicated and smart western film is always welcome, this one simply did not feel as such, just one that was trying to be that, one that was reaching for it and not completely accomplishing it. Again, there was enough here to keep watching, but not enough to satisfy.

3 out of 5

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