Saturday, April 30, 2011

Drango (1957): Revenge and Redemption


An exceptionally somber but rather interesting post-Civil War movie delineates the bitter strife that ensues when Northern troops occupy a devastated Georgia town in the rural South after the surrender at Appomattox. The period of the film, which has rarely been addressed in American movies, was the subject of an intriguing story with a potentially rich tapestry documenting how thin the social fabric can be when a people are defeated. The film, released by United Artists in 1957, remains more than a bit threadbare but still worthwhile.

Drango (1957-Hal Barlett & Jules Bricken) might be categorized as a Western, since it has many of the hallmarks of the genre, with horses, outlaw gangs, and a man (Jeff Chandler) trying to bring order and the rule of law into a chaotic situation without much help from the citizenry. Drango often plays like a fairly simple oater, but there is a bleakness that hangs over the film that seemed to me to have an echo of the grey-spirited films that sifted through the ashes of Germany after World War II for story material, (The Search, Germany, Year Zero, and The Big Lift, Decision Before Dawn, and Kapò). Those were all more polished and powerful films, though this low budget movie does capture some of the rawness of the psychological war wounds on both sides of the sectarian American conflict, centering on actions between April, 1865 and New Year's Day, 1866.

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