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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Based On a True Story

Rage at Dawn (1955) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Lincoln's faceIn 1886 ex-Confederate spy James Barlow (Randolph Scott) was retained by the Peterson [Pinkerton] National Detective Agency to infiltrate the infamous Reno Boys based in southern Indiana. He allowed him­self to be picked up by the Seymore, Indiana constabulary for passing marked $100 bills from a staged train robbery. He greased the palms of the bent judge (Edgar Buchanan) and persuaded him to spare the golden goose for more shares to come. To take advantage of a supposedly imminent train ship­ment, the judge connects him with the suspicious Reno brothers to rob it together. Surprises await them.


Since the Reno boys don't cotton much to strangers, as a very minimum token the shrewd spy returned the money belts of two Reno henchmen he and his partner Monk Claxton (Kenneth Tobey) had relieved them of who had accosted him in town earlier. Since we're looking for biblical parallels we'll consider the apostle Paul who was not unreservedly accepted by the church at Corinth. He started out by not being a mooch though he could have tapped them for meals at least. (1Cor. 9:3-4) “Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, Have we not power to eat and to drink?”

Cupid's dartSecondly, Paul did not spirit off one of the Corinthian babes though many might have considered him a catch. He like other apostles and brethren was potentially available to marry some­body's sister there who other­wise would be doing the drudge work for them. (1Cor. 9:5) “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” That's similar to matriarch Rebekah being released by her family, (Gen. 24:60-61) “And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them. And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man: and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.” In “Rage at Dawn” James Barlow was “interested” enough in the Renos' sister Laura (Mala Powers) to date her and “plan my future” with her, but her hopes were summarily dashed (“I wanted so much to believe in you”) when he was revealed to be a criminal like her bad brothers. Now, the spy could have come in from the cold and made off with her, but that would have put a crimp in his mission, as would happen to the apostle Paul should he marry. The Renos liked being able to stay on Laura's inherited ranch and have her do the domestic chores for them. The Corinthians like­wise would not have appreciated some peripatetic preacher spiriting off some­body's useful sister.

(1Cor. 9:6-7) “Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?” Paul and Barnabas had rights to receive a stipend from the Corinthians whom they were ministering to rather than taking an out­side job to supply all their needs, but they passed on their support for the sake of being more acceptable. Like­wise, Barlow relinquished his and Monk's entire share of the (supposed) train robbery take to the judge, holding nothing back unlike some others under his protection.

Production Values

” (1955) was directed by Tim Whelan. Its screenplay was written by Horace McCoy from a story by Frank Gruber. It had a great cast of veteran western performers starring Randolph Scott, Forrest Tucker, and Mala Powers. Scott is in fine form here romancing an unspoiled girl of tender years while corralling her bad older brothers.

The movie was certified acceptable for 1955 audiences. The supposed Indiana country­side that was flat when I lived there looked an awful lot like hilly California where it was filmed. The audio in my DVD gradually drifted out of sync with the speakers' lips, which was a distraction though not a deal breaker. Filmed in Technicolor, it had a persistent color flutter every time the scene changed constituting an extraneous special effect. Stunts were authentic. Lots of horses.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This was a better than average Randolph Scott western for its clever plotting. It's a western like they don't make them anymore. I hope others can appreciate this worthy genre besides me. With a western you pretty much know what you're getting.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for children: Not rated, passed code. Special effects: Well done stunts. Video Occasion: Better than watching TV. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Three and a half stars out of five.