Union officer Kerry Bradford escapes from a Confederate prison and races to intercept $5 million in gold destined for Confederate coffers. A Confederate sympathizer and a Mexican bandit, each with their own stake in the loot, stand in his way.
Oh, I'm an expert at that now. Treating friends like strangers and enemies like friends. Virginia City is directed by Michael Curtiz and written by Robert Buckner. It stars Errol Flynn, Randolph Scott, Miriam Hopkins, Humphrey Bogart, Alan Hale and Guinn Williams. Music is by Max Steiner and cinematography by Sol Polito. Story is a loose working of actual events that happened in December 1864 at the tail end of the American Civil War. A group of Confederate sympathisers are trying to ship a substantial amount of gold out of Virginia City to rebel leader Jefferson Davis, where it is hoped that the course of the war that the Confederates are close to losing will now be changed... It was a messy production, not very many people got on, the pic started without a finished script, and with the bad weather mixing with bad blood it was something of a chore for many of the cast. Add in that the great Bogart is woefully miscast - and he knows it - then you got a picture that considering the talent involved across the board is a long way away from being a genre classic. It starts off so promisingly, we are thrust into the murky confines of Libby Prison - The Black Hole Of The Confederacy (AKA: The Devil's Warehouse), where the ever splendidly twinkled Flynn is burrowing out through a tunnel with his two comedy sidekicks, Hale and Williams. Before you know it they are to be confronted by that bastion of Western/Southern film greatness, Randolph Scott, this is classic film fan nirvana. Sadly it's a false dawn that precedes a film of great moments cobbled together to almost outstay its welcome. However, such as it is that a love of classic film can keep one engaged for escapist fare value, so it be here. Curtiz at least keeps things brisk enough with a number of action sequences, where we at times find the genius that is stuntman Yakima Canutt at the core of things. Some stunts here beggar belief, including one involving a horse that the ASPCA must have raged at! The stars hold court for their scenes - well except for Bogart trying to munch his way through a Mexican bandit accent and Hopkins out of tone the for the singing sequences , while as fluffy as it is the ending has a warm glow to it. Which leaves what? It's not the disaster it could have been given the behind the scenes problems, and for sure a love of the era of film making it comes from ensures you have to give it props (it was popular on release). But this could have easily have had twenty minutes shaved from its excess, for then it might have spared an unhappy cast and an expectant audience the sense of disappointment it isn't top line stuff. 6/10