Blood on the Moon answers the question about whether or not you can make a Film Noir Western. The answer is not in the 1940s. Robert Mitchum plays the closest thing to a hero that he ever portrayed. Stumbling into town on a favor to a friend, Mitchum’s Jim Garry finds himself in a cattle herding scandal.
None of this is Jim Garry’s fault. He’s just a guy trying to make peace with all parties, but he wants to do right by his friend. When he finds out that his buddy might not be a good guy, he takes it upon himself to learn about the cattle struggles in the area. Barbara Bel Geddes is the female lead who takes it upon herself to force Jim Garry to do the right thing.
Robert Mitchum as a cowboy is a sight to behold. He looks uncomfortable doing anything but shooting people. Yet, he’s forced into romantic entanglements and making peace with the local Indian tribe. All the while, the Homesteaders hate him because he gets turned into the scapegoat for his friend’s efforts to manipulate government regulations about cattle. It’s practically The Phantom Menace up in here.
When covering the Warner Archive titles, I always wonder about the dartboard their content managers use to choose titles for a given month. I can see some of the themes, but it always feels so delightfully random. Who chooses May to be random Robert Mitchum Western month? No one is complaining over at AndersonVision. We just dig the selection process.
Blood on the Moon was definitely a Robert Wise film. Coming at the time in the RKO output where Wise was riding high, Wise played hard in themes he loved in the Noir area. Ambiguous outsider heroes, moral conflict and unfamiliar settings that threw genre conventions out the window were all at play. Blood on the Moon is a compelling movie, but not one that will entice every single audience.
Psychological Westerns had a mini heyday in the 40s and 50s. Blood on the Moon was definitely one of them, but who gets into Westerns for brooding intensity? Audiences at the time wanted shootouts and scenic landscapes. This film flips off that notion by daring you to get into the dirt with it. I super respect the balls it took to make a movie like this in 1948.
The Warner Archive Blu-ray comes with no special features. However, I included a ton of screenshots to show off that sweet transfer. I dig these releases and hope that we can eventually get all of the RKO Westerns onto Blu-ray. But, I’ll take what I can get during these odd times. What more is there to say? Even in the crazy current climate, Warner Archives brings the Old School Cool.