Starring: Cameron Mitchell and Jack Nicholson
Director: Monte Hellman
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars
When three drifters cross paths with a band of desperadoes, vigilantes mistake them for members of the gang. The innocent riders are forced to become the criminals they are mistaken for in order to survive.
"Ride in the Whirlwind" is a surprisingly engaging western. I say "surprisingly", because when it comes right down to it, an awful lot of the movie is spent with characters having fairly mundane and repetitious conversations, and is populated with characters who are as unknown to the viewers when the movie ends as they were when it started. Usually, such elements are signs of a cheap movie that is choking on the padding added to stretch it to a decent run-time. In this film, however, the elements merge with the random way three possibly shady--but certainly not the bad guys they are mistaken for--men are forced down a path of violence and brutality. I suppose this movie is an illustration of how a talented director and cast can create a find movie where hacks would merely produce a pile of crap out of the same material.
I recommend this movie if you are a fan of westerns. "Ride in the Whirlwind" occupies a sort of middle ground between the "traditional" American western and the European western (best recognized through Sergio Leone's movies starring Clint Eastwood) that was transforming the genre when this film was released.
(Trivia: "Ride in the Whirlwind" was shot back-to-back with "The Shooting", another low-budget western directed by Hellman that featured much of the same cast and used the same crew and locations.)