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STEVE COCHRAN VS LEO GORDON IN 'QUANTRILL'S RAIDERS'

Steve Cochran tries not romancing the Diane Brewster YEAR: 1958
Cult Film Freak's two favorite actors are, in order, Dana Andrews and James Cagney. So their antithesis: tall, dark and deadly Steve Cochran, is important enough to be mentioned even before this review of one of his few starring vehicles...

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In THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES he moonlighted with Dana's frustrated, nightlife-addicted spouse, and in WHITE HEAT strategically hooked up with Cagney's cranky gun moll: In each case it was Virginia Mayo, and Cochran appeared in several other Mayo vehicles including SHE'S BACK ON BROADWAY but went on his own as well: For QUANTRILL'S RAIDERS is neither a gangster flick or musical. Although, like BEST YEARS, it does center on harsh human rivalry but during, not after, the Civil War. His character is initially hard to discern, relate with or root for...

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A smooth gent that also goes by another name to trick a small town of Northerners, unaware they're soon to be attacked by the titular gang of redneck roughnecks. Historic both in text book legend and cinematic adaptations, and centering on a bloodthirsty band mentioned in a handful of movies including Quentin Tarantino's latest, HATEFUL 8, these Raiders were a group of mercenary thugs that were useful cutthroats for the Rebels against the Yankees: Picture if John Dillinger reigned in the 1940's and was sent to Germany to stickup enemy headquarters, or simply refer back to THE DIRTY DOZEN and you'll get the idea...

Steve Cochran takes a shot at the bad guys
Peacetime scoundrels can make reliable warriors, and at the helm here is tough guy character actor Leo Gordon (known to Generation X as the aged sympathetic Russian wrestler on one of the better episodes of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE)...

Alas, with such a square-jawed, muscular mug and formidable disposition equalling some of the great all-time celluloid heavies, he doesn't get enough scenes for his vicious persona to be exploited like it should be. For the most part he sits behind a desk and frowns at orders given by Cochran's gentleman double-agent, Wes, who, beyond the hideaway and in plain site, is given a fake story that needs literally backing up: to purchase horses in order to continuously meet with Quantrill in secret, a few miles off from the small town while trying hard not to romance (or be romanced by) lovely dream girl Diane Brewster, who runs a boarding house with her little brother i.e. the token starry eyed ten-year-old...

RaiderScore: ****
Both are crazy about the swarthy stranger who seems on the level, like Gordon's Quantrill was a year earlier (with his own fake name) and mentioned of the soap operatic dialogue... 

Leo Gordon squares off with Steve Cochran
Between the melodrama, random fight sequences consist mostly of noisy shootouts as a wide-shot camera points at the action like being ten rows up at a football game, not allowing the viewer to get inside the characters plight but, instead, to view the bullet-spraying gunplay bookending this programmer from the beginning, on an open range ambush when Cochran joins up with/warms up to the Northerners he plans to ruse, to the semi-suspenseful finale at the usual dusty town's main street with more than the usual two gunslingers — mob verses mob as the question mounts... 

Leo Gordon and Steve Cochran in Quantrill's Raiders
Will our anti-hero be able to save the good people (including the pretty dame) from the same goons he was sent to help in the first place? 

Most likely yes since QR is an intentionally simple, predictable time-filler, while it does have enough layers to keep the 1950's double-feature audiences awake after the A-feature they really paid for. So for a bonafide history lesson of Americana, QUANTRILL'S is anything but a reliable source, and yet it's an intriguing character-driven Western that will only disappoint audiences who expected more of a movie they'd never even heard of.
Steve Cochran in Quantrill's Raiders
Leo Gordon and Steve Cochran, Quantrill's Raiders
Hooker with the heart of gold/Quantrill's bitch turns to the good side, for a shot
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