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Jim Harvey is hired to guard a small wagon train as it makes its way west. The train is attacked by Indians and Harvey, hoping to persuade Aguila, the chief, to call off the attack due to Harvey’s having saved his son’s life, leaves the train to negotiate. He is captured and the rest of the train is wiped out except for two sisters. Escaping and showing up in town later, Harvey is nearly hanged as a deserter, but gets away. Eventually caught by the sheriff and his posse, they are attacked by Indians. This time the Indians are defeated and Aguila, captured and dying, reveals the identity of the white man who engineered the initial attack on the wagon train, just as the perpetrator rides up behind them.

A man’s best friend is his horse.

 Tumbleweed is directed by Nathan Juran and adapted to screenplay by John Meredyth Lucas from the novel “Three Were Renegades” written by Kenneth Perkins. It stars Audie Murphy, Chill Wills, Lori Nelson, Roy Roberts, Russell Johnson, Lee Van Cleef, K.T. Stevens and Madge Meredith. Music is by Joseph Gershenson and cinematography by Russell Metty.

It’s atypical Audie Murphy fare, which for his fans (of which I’m firmly one) is enough for a rollicking good time. Plot has Murphy as Jim Harvey, a Wagon Train leader who mistakenly gets called out for being a coward when the train he is leading is attacked by the Yaqui Indians, leaving all the men folk dead. Forced to evade lynch mobs and the law, he goes on the lam, armed with only his wits and an aging horse called Tumbleweed.

What follows for the 80 minute run time is plenty of action and near scrapes, some barely concealed romantic yearnings, and of course heroics from both man and beast. The locations used for the story are gorgeous, as Death Valley and Vasquez Rocks form a mightily impressive back drop to the unfolding drama. While stunts and machismo are up to the requisite standard. Cast are fine, with Audie being Audie, Wills a gruff lawman and Cleef in loose cannon side-kick mode. The girls are mere tokens, but the beauty of Nelson and Meredith is breath taking. While costuming (Bill Thomas) is high end as well.

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