Stampede Brothers Mike and Tim McCall own a large ranch in Arizona, using the surrounding lands for grazing cattle. Stanley Cox and LeRoy Stanton sell this land to settlers who arrive to find it bone dry, as a dam on the McCall ranch controls the water. Among the settlers are John Dawson and his daughter Connie. The latter goes to the nearest town to take action, but Sheriff Ball tells him there is nothing he can do. Tim falls for Connie but Mike is unimpressed with her charms. While returning from a town dance, Tim discovers Stanton trying to dynamite the dam, and is killed in the ensuing gunfight. Stanton later sends his men to stampede the cattle while he and Cox blow up the dam. Despite the efforts of Mike and Sheriff Ball, the cattle are wiped out and Mike races to the dam and kills Stanton in a gunfight.
Rod Cameron Dodges Hot Lead, Flying Fists, Stampeding Cattle, Even Dynamite, But Not….
The plot, cattlemen versus homesteaders, could be labeled western scenario #6, but who cares — there hasn’t been a new story since 33 A.D. It’s the treatment that counts, and it is very well done here with a number of intriguing twists and some unexpected turns. Tall, raw-boned Cameron plays a cattle baron, so hard-nosed in resisting the homesteaders who have legally bought land he had regarded as his range, that he comes off almost an antihero in the opening reels. Diminutive Gale Storm plays the feisty homesteader tomboy who provides his formidable opposition, and of course his eventual love interest. Good support comes from Johny Mack Brown as a sure-shot sheriff friendly to the cattleman, Don Castle as Cameron’s happy-go-lucky brother, Jonathan Hale as the cattleman’s fair-minded attorney, with John Miljan, Donald Curtis, and John Eldridge as a trio of shady land dealers stirring up trouble.
Much of the considerable entertainment value of this modest western come from the intelligent script by Edwards and John C. Champion, with well-developed characters and lots of snappy, colorful dialog, especially the sharp exchanges between Storm and the two cattlemen brothers. Black and white cinematography by Harry Neumann is first rate. The brutal fist fight segueing into a gunfight and back again to a fist fight inside a dark stable qualifies as a minor masterpiece of action filming. The starkly lighted, obliquely angled shots in this an other night scenes demonstrates how what is now known as the film noir style, all the rage in the late 1940’s, filtered down even to unpretentious westerns.
Stampede is an action packed, dramatically engaging, beautifully filmed, smoothly edited western. Top notch entertainment from Old Hollywood’s Golden Era.