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The Saga of Hemp Brown
movies, Western

1958 | 4:3 | Color | Quality: Excellent

Rory Calhoun

Beverly Garland

John Larch


U. S. cavalry officer Hemp Brown (Rory Calhoun) is tasked with escorting an army payroll (and the lovely wife of his commanding officer) to an army fort. But serious trouble erupts when the convoy is ambushed and everyone except Brown is murdered. The leader of the gang, Jed Givens (John Larch), is an old acquaintance of Brown, so he spares his life but frames Brown for the crime. At trial Brown implicates Larch for the crime, but the army believes that Larch was killed in action years ago. From there Hemp Brown is dishonorably discharged, although the prosecution can't prove he stole the payroll so he's discharged for cowardice. With his good name in tatters and the odds stacked up against him, Brown goes on a rampage from town to town, obsessed with finding John Larch and clearing his name!

The Saga of Hemp Brown is directed by Richard Carlson and written by Bob Williams and Bernard Girard. It stars Rory Calhoun, Beverly Garland, John Larch, Russell Johnson, Fortunio Bonanova and Allan Lane. A CinemaScope/Eastman Color production, the music is by Joseph Gershenson and cinematography by Philip Lathrop. The extremely interesting twist to the usual western here is the fact that both Brown and Larch need each other alive. Brown has to prove Larch is alive and well to prove his innocence, and will have to fight to keep his nemesis alive, while Larch needed Brown alive so he could frame him for the robbery. Add in that Brown's only companions worth the name are a quirky traveling salesman (Bonanova) and his lovely assistant (Garland), then it's a nice frothy hot pot of plot ideas. What could easily have been a boorish revenge piece instead blossoms into a complex tale about Brown's journey to redemption. Everyone and everything he believed in has gone sour, and yet he seeks not bloody vengeance, but justice so he can once again hold his head high in a society that was quick to shun him. Larch is excellent as the villain of the piece, coming across quite psychotic. Calhoun does equally well as the man desperately trying to clear his name of cowardice. Beverley Garland adds some color as well as offering advice to our hero: that revenge can be self-defeating nature of it all and how it ends up inflicting more harm on the seeker than anyone else.

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