In this epic Western, Wade Hatton, a wagon master turned sheriff, tames a cow town at the end of a railroad line.
Well, well. So this is Dodge City, huh? Sort of smells like Fort Worth, don't it? "Dodge City, Kansas - 1872. Longhorn cattle center of the world and wide-open Babylon of the American frontier - packed with settlers, thieves and gunmen". "Dodge City... rolling in wealth from the great Texas trail-herds... the town that knew no ethics but cash and killing". Enter trail boss Wade Hatton, cunningly disguised as a dashing Errol Flynn... Dodge City, an all action Western from start to finish, finds Errol Flynn (in his first Western outing) on tip top form. Based around the story of Wyatt Earp, Michael Curtiz's expensively assembled film charms as much today as it did to audiences back in 1939. All the genre staples are holding the piece together, dastardly villains, pretty gals, wagon train, cattle drive, iron horse, Civil War, shoot outs, fist fights and of course an heroic Sheriff. All neatly folded by the astute and impressive Curtiz. Aided by Sol Polito's fluid Technicolor enhanced photography, and Max Steiner's breezy score, Curtiz's set pieces shine as much as they enthral. A burning runaway train and the finest saloon brawl in cinema are the stand outs, but there are many other high points on which to hang the hat of praise. Very much a male dominated film, it's with the ladies that Dodge City fails to reach greater heights. Olivia de Havilland, who is always a feast for the eyes in Technicolor, disliked her role as Abbie Irving, and it's not hard to see why. There is not much for her to get her teeth into, it's a simple role that demands nothing other than saying the lines and to look pretty. Ann Sheridan as Ruby Gilman gets the more sparky role, but she sadly doesn't get that much screen time. Which is a shame because what little there is of Sheridan is really rather great. Those problems aside, it's with the guys where the film is rightly remembered. Flynn attacks the role of Hatton with gusto and a glint in his eye. When he straps on the Sheriff badge for the first time it's akin to Clark Kent shredding his suit to become Superman. Yes it's that exciting. Bruce Cabot and Victor Jory are growly and great villains, while comedy relief comes in the fine form of side-kickers Alan Hale and Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams. Picture sets out to entertain, and entertain it does. In a year that saw other notable and lauded Westerns also released (Stagecoach, Jesse James and Destry Rides Again) give credit where credit is due, for Dodge City deserves its place amongst those other genre offerings - and most assuredly so as well. 8/10