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Monday, May 10, 2021

Mystery Movie - Five Card Stud

This week I am reviewing the only Mystery Western, that I know of, from 1968 titled Five Card Stud from the novel by Ray Gaulden.  Directed by Henry Hathaway and starring popular Dean Martin and the powerhouse Robert Mitchum.

In 1880, a gambler in the small town of Rincon, 100 miles from
Denver, Colorado is caught cheating at a five-card stud poker game. The players, led by the volatile Nick Evers, take the cheating gambler to hang him.  Dean Martin's character, Van Morgan, tried to stop them, but was unable to prevent the tragedy.  The players in that fateful night's poker game are being mysteriously killed off, one by one.  Van Morgan (Dean Martin) realizes the connection of the deadly poker game and investigates along with Mitchum's character, the newly arrived unorthodox Reverend Jonathan Rudd.  Tensions rise until panic turns the townspeople against each other.

It's a Western with a traditional mystery plot and plenty of suspense wrapped in a film noir style.  Dean Martin and Robert Mitchum give stellar performances and have a quality supporting cast with Inger Stevens, Roddy McDowell, John Anderson, and Denver Pyle.  This is an often forgotten movie and sadly underrated.  The director, Hathaway, gave us True Grit, How the West Was Won, and The Sons of Katie Elder but that didn't ensure this movie being better.  It is a good movie, not great.  

It is a slow burn to modern audiences used to fast paced everything in movies now. Don't look for prefect historical accuracy either.  It builds the story and characters like a Hitchcock movie.  The picking off of the poker players that fateful night is reminiscent of Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" story.  

This is an enjoyable movie for an afternoon with some popcorn when you want something unique and outside the usual.  I saw this on television when I was a teen and it stuck with me until I bought the DVD as an adult.  Give it a try, it might surprise you.

Movie trailer

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