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Blood on the Moon

By Eric Allen Hatch | Posted 8/10/2005

To an unsympathetic eye Blood on the Moon sags under the weight of many of the trappings of a typical RKO western programmer circa 1948 —homesteaders battling cattlemen, conflict-torn families, Walter Brennan—any and all of which might turn off some viewers. But fans of the genre will revel in these same aspects, as well as passages of early-career flair from both Robert Mitchum and director Robert Wise. Mitchum stars as loner Jim Garry, who rolls into town to perform, reluctantly, some hyper-lucrative gun-and-muscle work for friend Tate Riling (Robert Preston). However, Garry’s moral compass won’t permit him to go along with Riling’s scheme to scare off, and thus cheat, cattleman and family man John Lufton (Tom Tully). A fight scene, arguably the most noir-lit scuffle in westerns, provides some welcome, artful excitement, and Mitchum’s clearly working in his element with this role. Otherwise, Blood on the Moon provides business as usual for its time and genre—and sandwiched as it is in Wise’s filmography, between 1947’s near-perfect Born to Kill and 1949’s note-perfect The Set-Up, it ultimately feels much less special.

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