Dawn at Socorro (1954)


Brett Wade, gambler, gunslinger, and classical pianist, is wounded in a gunfight with the Ferris clan; the doctor finds signs of tuberculosis. En route to Colorado for his health, Brett stops in Socorro, New Mexico along with Ferris gunfighter Jimmy Rapp. Sheriff Couthen fears another shootout, but what Brett has in mind is saving waif-with-a-past Rannah Hayes from a life as one of Dick Braden's saloon girls.

All my friends are my enemies.
Dawn at Socorro is directed by George Sherman and written by George Zuckerman. It stars Rory Calhoun, Piper Laurie, David Brian, Kathleen Hughes, Alex Nicol and Edgar Buchanan. Music is by Joseph Gershenson and cinematography by Carl Guthrie.
One Night In Socorro.
A cracker-jack Western this. Plot essentially has Calhoun as Brett Wade, a tough gunfighter who is suffering badly from ill health. Taking advice from his doctor he decides to retire to healthier pastures, but his past and new enemies refuse to let him go. OK! So it's very much a composite of a number of famous Westerns, but to dismiss this as a cheap knock off would be foolish. The script is very literate and the screenplay never gets tired or preposterous. From an action stand point it scores favourably, right from the opening in Lordsburgh where we get a stockyard shoot-out, pic is never dull.
I wont arrest you for being naked.
There's good black humour in here as well, and some outstanding scenes such as Brett playing Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata at his own funeral (you will understand when you see it) and a poker game where the stake is the fetching Piper Laurie! There's a constant running feud between Wade and Jimmy Rapp (Nicol), a well written part of the film as it brings in codes and ethics that play opposite another character.
The tech credits are bang on the money. Location photography out of Apple Valley and Victorville is gorgeous, as is Guthrie's colour lensing for the interiors. Props and set design is hugely appealing, including a super locomotive for the train enthusiasts to gorge on. While the front line cast members (Lee Van Cleef & Skip Homeier have small roles) turn in very good work, with Calhoun once again showing his qualities in the genre.
My past - every dark miserable day of it!
But it's with the characterisations where the film strikes the finest. Laurie's Rannah Hayes has been cast out the family home for apparently being a hussy, she's constantly carrying that baggage with her. She finds a soul mate in Wade, a man dragged down by his life, and the weight of such could be his downfall - and he knows it. Buchanan is wonderfully ebullient as the lawman trying to get Wade out of town ASAP, Nicol is hopped up on booze and a thirst for vengeance, whilst David Brian is entrepreneur Dick Braden, a devious man with no code or honour.
Highly recommended to Western fans. 8/10

Universal International Pictures by George Sherman, George Zuckerman.
Stars: Rory Calhoun, Piper Laurie, David Brian, Kathleen Hughes.

Genres: Action, Music, Romance, Western

Keywords: saloon gambler


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