• Posse From Hell

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: July 5th, 2017.
    Director: Henry Hathaway
    Cast: Audrey Murphy, John Saxon, Ward Ramsey,
    Zohra Lampert, Robert Keith, Vic Morrow, Lee Van Cleef
    Year: 1961

    The Movie:

    Calling the 1961 Western POSSE FROM HELL any kind of classic - "six shooter" or otherwise, is pretty ambitious of Australia's Umbrella Entertainment. "Programmer" is more like it. But this is still a fun way to kill the odd 90 minutes for a genre fan.

    Western stalwart Audie Murphy stars as Banner Cole, the man with a past forced into unwelcome duty when a good friend is murdered. The small town of Paradise has just suffered an horrific crime. Four death row bad hombres have broken out, robbed the local bank, and in the process taken a hostage after mortally wounding the town's Marshall named Isaac (Ward Ramsey) in an extended standoff at the local saloon. Despite being surrounded by armed townsfolk, the criminals - led by a young Vic Morrow - make their getaway and take their hostage, young woman Helen (Zohra Lampert), and the cash up into the nearby hills. Their plans for the girl clearly involving sexual assault.

    Marshall Isaac stays alive just long enough to send for his buddy Banner and deputize him and get him to agree assemble a posse to go after the outlaws. Banner is a distinctly antisocial sort - a gunfighter with low regard for his fellow man who thinks that the men of the town are a sorry lot. He's more than willing to go after the killers but is resistant to Isaac's dying wish that he form a posse. The posse ends up consisting of a group of stereotypes with the two most interesting being John Saxon's prissy bank manager Seymour and Robert Keith's elderly and pompous war ex-soldier Jeremiah Brown.

    POSSE FROM HELL has an utterly predictable plot but it's an efficiently delivered Western with some fun sequences and good performances. Murphy was more interesting as a person than an actor - he was WWII's most decorated soldier, a babyfaced and physically slight hardass who killed too many Germans to count and once jumped on a burning tank and used a machine gun to save his entire platoon. He suffered from what was then called battle fatigue and slept with a loaded pistol and frightened tough guys like Don Siegel with his explosive temper. As an actor he could be stiff and unconvincing. But he handles this seething antisocial gunslinger well, and is especially good in his scenes with rape victim Lampert. Saxon at that point was already a seasoned pro, and he's a hoot complaining about being saddle sore and just being a major fussbudget. Keith - near the end of his career - is a great incompetent windbag. Lee Van Cleef doesn't have much to do as one of the bad guys but he's always a welcome screen presence and Vic Morrow is great. Morrow had been fine tuning his sneer since his star making turn in BLACKBOARD JUNGLE and he's got it down to a science. Boredom levels are kept well in check up until the final showdown.


    Umbrella's 1.78:1 framed 16:9 anamorphic PAL DVD (region coded 2 and 4) is the living definition of barebones. But the image looks good for standard def. Colors are strong and everything looks natural with no obvious signs of digital tinkering. I caught a couple of fleeting instances of edge enhancement and the odd bit of print damage but never saw anything notable in terms of visual deficiencies. For our American and Canadian readers I didn't have any issues with the PAL format on my all region player.

    Audio? The Dolby digital 2.0 mono track won't be winning any technical awards, but it gets the job done. Umbrella haven't bothered to put any subtitles on this disc – which could've been a serious liability with a muddy audio track, but thankfully that is not an issue here. The soundstage is narrow but focused with dialogue clear at all times and adequate bottom end.

    Extras? Zilch. Not even a trailer.

    The Final Word:

    I'm going to recommend this to fans of Westerns and Audrey Murphy. It's predictable but well done with good narrative drive and strong pacing. Saxon and Keith are excellent and the sexual abuse angle is handled with unusual nuance for the era. Umbrella are also a fine company doing strong work in bringing lesser but worthy "B" pictures to the home video market and as such are worth supporting.