The Civil War has ended in the United States, and the state of Texas has found itself in big financial trouble — practically bankrupt.
Investors are flooding in from the north and snatching up land, including Judd Hastings (Ray Teal) and his daughter Marian (Amanda Blake), who own a cattle company. Hastings asks the governor for some help when a group of squatters — ranchers who feel the land belongs to them — refuse to leave the property.
The governor has no militia to send to Hastings’ land in Questa, so instead he sends Mike McGann (Dennis Morgan) and Shiloh (George O’Hanlon) in as peacekeepers of sorts. Meanwhile, Hastings’ patience is short, and believing that he’s on the right side of the law, he confiscates the squatters’ livestock. Can Mike and his sidekick get the situation under control and avoid a bloody feud?
Cattle Town was directed by Noel Smith and written by Tom Blackburn. This was the last film made by Dennis Morgan before transitioning to a more television-focused career, though he would still appear in five more films by the end of his time in Hollywood.
The music of Cattle Town is a nice addition to the film, though I personally wouldn’t quite classify Morgan’s character as a “singing cowboy.” There’s a barber shop quartet, and Morgan busts into a song or three, but some of the songs aren’t cowboy tunes — just standards like “The Band Played On.” The film blends the crooning of the “singing cowboy” with the more serious tone of a conflict-driven, man-vs.-evil Western.
While the music is balanced quite well throughout the film, Cattle Town doesn’t do a great job of blending its western action with its lighter romantic fare. Sadly, Cattle Town doesn’t reach the heights that it could, with its potential for high tension and drama. This is thanks in part to the inconsistent tone, and also thanks in part to some poor stunt work, which makes the fight scenes comical rather than impactful. (Those Hollywood punches are very obviously Hollywood punches — no contact!)
Still, it’s a decent watch. There’s gun-slinging, cattle-driving, a wagon train, a saloon brawl… the story isn’t riveting or groundbreaking, but it’s enough to keep the viewer occupied. The score: 2/5