Young Billy Young Review

In this atypical western, young Billy Young (Robert Walker) opens the action with a shootout on board a train carrying an execution squad. Thereafter, he's separated from his partner Jessie (David Carradine), only coming upon Ben Kane (Robert Mitchum) in the middle of the desert, when, riding a jackass and sinking into a lake, all seems pretty much lost. Kane offers Young a way out of the life of an outlaw. Taking up the job as marshal of Lordsburg, Kane is haunted by the memory of the murder of his son, shot down on a night many years before when a thunderstorm hit Lordsburg. But there more ghosts than just those of his son. He meets Lily Beloit (Angie Dickinson), who has her own memories of Kane. Into Lordsburg rides Jessie, looking for Billy Young but getting himself thrown in jail for his trouble. And in his wake comes his father, Frank Boone (John Anderson), the man blamed by Kane for the death of his son.

Burt Kennedy has polished up Will Henry's novel Who Rides With Wyatt for the screen but it's still very far from being a prize diamond. What seems at first glance to be a very cliched story is actually anything but. Kennedy has jumbled up ideas, stories and scenes so thoroughly that while Young Billy Young makes it as a western on account of its setting, its stagecoach shootout, its saloon bar poker game and its showgirls providing a diversion for cowboys who'd otherwise spend their nights brawling, the director can't decide if this film ought to be a drama, a comedy or a revenge thriller. It's all these things but fails to do any of them very well. Meagre laughs interrupt the setting up of the story while Kane's lawmaking has neither rhyme nor reason as the Marshall almost turns the other cheek to cold blooded murder in the hope that it will aid his bringing down of Boone. And in the background is a soundtrack so jaunty that is not only outscores the already feeling-good theme from My Name Is Nobody for simple-minded happiness but is performed such that it could have fitted seamlessly into The Knack... And How To Get It.

Where Young Billy Young does very well, though, is in the relationship between Marshall and showgirl (and, without actually saying the word, prostitute) Mitchum and Dickinson. The two leads manage to make so typical a western romance something precious, particularly in their meeting while Dickinson bathes beside the fire. This one scene offers them a respite from the dangers that await them later in the film, Mitchum's Kane from the threat of Frank and Jesse Boone and Dickinson's Beloit from saloon bar boss John Behan (Jack Kelly). This is the standout scene in Young Billy Young and remains so on account of the showdown between Kane and Boones, both junior and senior, being so disappointing.

No matter the presence of Angie Dickinson, there's something of Rio Bravo about Young Billy Young but while that film used its running time to develop its characters and to set the pace for a thrilling finale, this is a turnabout of Young and Kane swapping roles (and knocking one another out), a shootout in which the villains seem to simply disappear from the action and Kane dealing with Boone in so throwaway a manner that one wonders if it was really him. Kennedy and co-writer Heck Allan could have done a good deal more with his cast than is on show here, just as Ford did with Wayne and Dickinson ten years earlier but they do not. There is a fine comeback from Mitchum in the film's final minutes but that doesn't make it memorable


Anamorphically presented in 1.85:1, Young Billy Young looks good enough to pass muster for home viewing but there's little that's particularly special about it. Colours are generally very good, even if Lordsburg isn't much of a patch on the earlier scenes in the scrubland while the detail in the picture is equally obvious. The DD2.0 audio track isn't bad either and, on the whole, ensures that the dialogue is audible. There is, however, one notable exception to this and that occurs fifty-five minutes in when Billy Young and his girl wander along in main street and seemingly into the path of a giant fan that someone appears to have accidentally switched on. Not only does it appear as though the pair of them are struggling to cope with this instant gale but it almost obscures what is being said. To add insult to injury, a shadow also falls over the screen, which does the same for the picture. That may be a result of Kennedy tossing whoever was responsible for the bluster of wind and noise over the horizon but I think not.


The only extra on Young Billy Young is a Trailer.

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