Abilene Town, based on the novel “Trail Town” by Ernest Haycox, stars Randolf Scott in his first big role as a marshal dealing with a town’s tension between land sharers and cattle drivers. Along with this issue he also faces a botched love triangle, cowardly sheriff ally, and some crooked town’s people.
Scott’s character Dan reveals a lot about himself in the opening scene as he exits a church to resolve a problem. When he removes his church attire he transforms into the law. With this though comes Dan’s pride ways as he defends his own causes while faces issues head-on. The problem with Randolph’s role is that he seems too calm and collected with such violence and chaos among his town and in the process is emotionally limited. Now, he isn’t the most boring character but some of his scenes needed more depth. His relationships with other citizen do help reveal some about this character from his romantic connection to a local show girl to the humorous contrast with the cowardly sheriff.
The film’s pace needs be mentioned directly. I found the film to progress very well compared to other older westerns where certain scenes seem to drag on to the point of exhaustion. It gives a well balanced mixture of humor, action, and romance; though some parts are lack drama and much needed grief. In fact there are moments where tears are needed and all we get are moapy faces; scenes that include death, even the death of a child which needed to be a focal point but it quickly mention and never referenced again.
Action scenes in most westerns all seem similar; they play peek-a-boo gunfight and throw wild punches. The latter of the two is done well in this film. A fight takes places between Dan and a train robber that feel real via to the character exhaustion of trading quite realistic blows.
It appears that a triangle love story is present but it hardly seems to be there. Dan opens the movie in church with one woman, only to show involvement with a showgirl. He just seems to play with both of their emotions as he leads one into the arms of another man in a spontaneous love story which is completely rushed. I guess you could say that each girl is pulling Dan in opposite directions but Dan only really seem interesting in the show girl while just being playfully flirtatious, which hurts his character.
The ending does stand out from other movies at that time. As the evil cattle driver returns to wreck the town, the townspeople unite forming a defense against them. The image of a town split over tensions and political issues over a common goal is inspiring but the action is lacking, rushed and leaves you feeling a bit cheated. But still seeing a town form an army singing “glory, glory, hallelujah” to face the villains is an encouraging site.
Abilene Town has its flaws as all movies do but it still entertains. Yes, it’s old. Yes, it’s dated. And yes it needed work with its direction. With all that aside it tells the story of a hardheaded hero wanted the best for his people, and honestly i think it could fare well against today’s film industry. It isn’t the best film and certainly not the worst film I’ve ever watched and I am sure this isn’t the last time I will watch this film.