Posse from Hell (1961) Poster

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There is always someone or something worthwhile. We just have to look hard enough.
hitchcockthelegend9 December 2011
Posse from Hell is directed by Herbert Coleman and adapted to screenplay by Clair Huffaker from his own novel of the same name. It stars Audie Murphy, John Saxon, Zohra Lampert, Rodolfo Acosta, Royal Dano, Robert Keith and Vic Morrow. Out of Universal-International, it's an Eastman Color production with cinematography by Clifford Stine and music supervised by Joseph Gershenson.

1880 and four escapees from death row ride into the small town of Paradise intent on causing mayhem. After robbing the bank and killing innocent men in the saloon, the men escape out of Paradise, taking with them a female hostage. A posse is formed, to be led by the slain Marshal's friend, ex-gunfighter Banner Cole, but good men are hard to find and Cole senses he would be better off on his own. But although many will die from this point on, from such adversity can heroes and friendships be born....

A little under seen and under appreciated is Posse from Hell. Hardly a deep psychological Western that strips bare the characters out on the trail, but certainly a picture high on action, blood and gutsy bravado. The title is a little misleading because the posse assembled is practically a roll call of stereotypes: gunman turned good, tenderfoot, man of different race ostracised, vengeful brother, pretty gal emotionally damaged, ex-army guy, wanna be kid gunslinger, and on it goes. Yet there is grim textures in the narrative (rape/revenge/cold blooded murder) and Gershenson scores it with horror movie strains. Even the blood red titles that open the picture look like something from a Hammer Horror production, clearly Coleman, Huffaker and co were aiming for a hellish wild west while cheekily having their posse formed out of a town called Paradise! A place where not all the citizens are stand up folk.

For Murphy fans this rounds out as real good value, he gets to do a number of great scenes like pouncing on a rattlesnake and diving through a window, while there's plenty of gun play moments for him to get his teeth into. But it also represents a good characterisation performance from him as Banner Cole, a man rough around the edges but definitely beating a humanist heart underneath the tough exterior. Around Murphy is a group of solid pros and up and coming stars, there's the odd iffy performance (Frank Overton) and overacting (Paul Carr), but nothing that overtly hurts the film. Main problem with it is that the villains remain elusive to us as characters, galling because we have been teased greatly in the opening section where we were introduced to some delicious villainy from Morrow as the leader Crip and Lee Van Cleef as Leo. More Morrow as a reprehensible bastard was definitely needed!

Major plus point is the use of Lone Pine, Alabama Hills, for the exteriors. A wonderfully rugged, yet beautiful part of the world, where the weird rock and boulder formations envelope the characters as a reminder that it's tough out here in the west. It's an area that Budd Boetticher and Randy Scott used to great effect for their superb Ranown Westerns. It's a shame that Boetticher never worked with Murphy more, for I feel sure he really could have gotten another 25% out of him, especially around the early 60s period. Still, Posse from Hell is a very enjoyable Audie Murphy picture, a bit more violent than most of his other Westerns, it's one that if you can forgive the odd creak here and there? And not expect some posse containing Satan's offspring? Then entertained you shall be. 7/10
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Murphy at his best
junkof9-127 August 2008
I've long been a fan of Audie Murphy and event his lesser movies are better than most of the drivel that comes out of Hollywood today.

This is a good movie on its merits and not just as a vehicle for Murphy. It works well on all levels - story, acting, and directing. What I most enjoyed is the fact each actor is given screen time to rise above the stereotypes and create a memorable character - even if they only have a few lines.

The two I remember most are the young banker Seymour Kern (John Saxon) and the Mexican cowboy Johnny Caddo (Rudolph Acosta). Saxon in particular does well showing true, believable growth; he isn't just there as a foil/sidekick for Murphy to play off of but as a genuine character treated as equally important to the storyline. Acosta, usually a villain in the movies, plays an equally important role as a Spanish cowboy who joins simply because "it's the right thing to do".
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One motley posse
bkoganbing24 July 2014
Posse From Hell is my second favorite Audie Murphy western, his best being No Name On The Bullet. It's Audie who is leading the men who make up the Posse From Hell, he's a deputy tracking down the killer of the marshal and another citizen from his town of Paradise.

Four prize specimens scheduled to hang escape from territorial prison and come upon the town and terrorize it, taking with them as hostage and sex toy Zohra Lampert. The leader of the four is Vic Morrow who packs a deadly shotgun. Morrow is absolutely riveting in his evil, this may very well be his career role.

In fact Posse From Hell has many good supporting parts, Robert Keith plays a vain Civil War soldier looking to recapture some of his former prestige or acquire some he never had. John Saxon also stands out as a bank clerk who's from the east who joins the posse to see if he has the right stuff. Rudolfo Acosta who usually plays bad guys plays an Indian who joins the posse as a tracker and takes a lot of guff from the more self righteous whites.

Seeing how deadly Morrow is with a shotgun this is an image that will disturb you and stay with you a long time.

A nice cast of familiar players help Audie Murphy make this one of his best westerns. An absolute must for his fans.
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superior B-Western on all levels
chipe19 June 2013
Very superior B-Western. It is well cast. The posse is made of heterogeneous, well fleshed-out characters --more so than the usual Western. I enjoyed everything about the film, even stolid, amiable star Audie Murphy, who seemed tolerable. Most of the time, in an understated way, he seemed to keep from laughing out loud or reprimanding his inept posse crew. It must amuse most fans that while Murphy was the most decorated American soldier in WW II (maybe US history) in real life, his movie presence is often milquetoast.

I want to mention three very unusual things about this movie, all commendable in my opinion: One, in most Westerns the bad guys hold up the bank, quickly race out of town, and an instant posse takes off after them. But here there was an amazing scene that I found believable and in tune with the movie. The bad guys killed the marshal and some others and DIDN'T rush out of town. Instead they took over the saloon, sat down at some tables and gave orders and threats and killed some as examples, for an extended period of time. It made some sense to me. The townsfolk were not soldiers or gunmen. They didn't want to die, so they didn't fight back.

Two, when the posse came across one fatally wounded outlaw (Van Cleef), he lie on the ground telling them that they had a duty to care for his wounds, but Murphy said they couldn't spare a man to take Van Cleef back to town or to tend to him on the spot, so they had to leave him to die there.

Three, most Westerns would end with the death of the last outlaw, but not this one. After the last outlaw is killed, Murphy carries John Saxon (good as a posse member) a few miles back to town in triumph to be congratulated. But the film refuses to end there. There is a lot of talk about the dead marshal who had recommended bad boy gunfighter Murphy for the job, about Murphy possibly becoming the new marshal and talk with the girl (Zohra Lampert, a favorite of everyone) about her future.
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violent western, good story, good action scenes.
tmwest31 March 2008
This western starts with the bad guys, among them Lee Van Cleef invading a town named Paradise and by taking hostages managing to rob the bank, even though they are in minority. Vic Morrow is the cruel Crip, who seems to be the leader. They leave town taking a woman, Helen (Zohra Lampert). Audie Murphy is Cole, who will lead the posse. The best thing about the film are the action scenes. Perhaps because Murphy was a war hero, his performance in a shootout seems more real than what we are used to see. John Saxon is Kern, a New Yorker who is working for the bank and which is sent along in order to see that the money gets back. He hates the West and never rode a horse before, so part of the fun of the film is seeing how he will deal with his task.
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a diverse posse
j_eyon-215 September 2012
better than average Audie Murphy western with more sharply defined characters than usual - plus a good script that brings freshness - and even fun - to the heavily traveled chase 'em plot

the actors help a lot - Robert Keith as the grizzled ex Civil War soldier who keeps trying to take over the posse - Rudolph Acosta as an Indian trying to be accepted - John Saxon as a soft Easterner reluctantly shoved into posse duty - Paul Carr as an eager young man handy with pistols - to name a few - somehow the script makes this diverse group interesting without making them annoying - the one notable exception is the 1-dimensional quality of the kidnapped girl as written - fortunately - the role was given over to the way-too-talented Zohra Lampert - and she brings this small part to life

the represents the type of effort that makes genre enjoyable
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4 escaped cons rape and pillage across the old west
helpless_dancer17 February 2000
A reluctant deputy takes an even more reluctant posse after 4 dangerous thugs who killed several townspeople and left with a hostage. The posse is so inept that several of them are gunned down while engaging the enemy on 3 or 4 occasions. Ol' Murph tried to keep them in line but they were mostly pretty hopeless. Lots of gunplay made for a good western, even if it was a little lame.
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Above Average Audie Murphy Western with Some Really Bad Bad Guys
LeonLouisRicci19 June 2016
Audie Murphy Over John Wayne Any Day. Real Life War Hero Audie Murphy was an Admired Man who was Brave, Courageous, and True. He Admitted that Acting was a Battle He Never Won. With a Likable Screen Persona He Soldered through a Career including many a Western. This was One of His Best.

A Solid Cast of B-Movie Actors, Striking Color Cinematography, more Violent than usual for the Time, some Truly Good vs Evil Characters, and Philosophical Musing make this an Above Average Entry in the Wagonload of Westerns in the Time Period (1950-Early 1960's).

It's a Grueling Task for the Make-Shift Posse on the Trail of some Hideous Bad-Guys lead by Vic Morrow and Lee Van Cleef. Audie and John Saxon reach Deep for some Soul Searching and the Ever Elusive, Nasty and Clever Outlaws show some Serious Signs of the Change about to Occur in Hollywood.

A Must See for Western Fans, especially Audie Murphy Cultists. The Story is well told and as Entertaining as All Get Out as these things go. This is one that the Most Decorated Military Hero in History can be Proud.
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"Yeah, well, the more punishment you take, the tougher you get."
classicsoncall9 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Audie Murphy fan or not, one needs no other reason to watch this Western than to catch all the cool supporting players. Not all of them are on screen much or last very long, but there's a bit of a who's who list of veteran character actors in the bunch, guys like Harry Lauter (the first to go actually in an early violent scene), Royal Dano, Lee Van Cleef, Ray Teal, Rocky Lane and I. Stanford Jolley among the cast list. And that's without even mentioning the great support from John Saxon, Vic Morrow and Rodolfo Acosta.

This one has Murphy in the role of a conflicted hero. I'd be curious to know how many times he appeared in films as a villain and as a good guy; he seemed to pop up in these B Westerns on both sides of the law as it were. One thing I thought the story could have done a better job with was with Cole Banner's (Murphy) back story, as we're given some sort of a hint by the dying Sheriff Webb (Ward Ramsey), but those details never materialize.

Leading a rag-tag posse in pursuit of four bank robbers from the town of Paradise, Banner takes some meager satisfaction in acknowledging that most of it's members aren't worth their salt. Probably the best element of the story deals with elite New York banker Kern (Saxon) and Indian guide Johnny Caddo (Acosta) proving their worth out on the trail, while hell bent for leather gunslinger Wiley (Paul Carr) freezes up during his very first, real live gunfight. That was a tough exit for Wiley.

There's also the uncomfortable theme of rape occurring off screen that provides moments of angst for Helen Caldwell (Zohra Lampert), kidnapped by the Crip Gang and left to fend for herself in the desert. Desperate to the point of suicide over her fate, Banner manages to convince her to return to Paradise and deal with her abuse constructively. I was relieved the story didn't try to take her relationship with Banner in the direction of a romance, it would have been all wrong for the dynamic of the picture.

Over all I'd rate this as one of Audie Murphy's better Western efforts, a notch below my personal favorite, "No Name on the Bullet". The one you really need to see though is his true life story depicted in 1955's "To Hell and Back", depicting Murphy's World War II service. As far as this picture goes, it seems to me there was one plot element left dangling at the end of the story, and that would be - how did Johnny Caddo's body make it back to Paradise for burial in the town cemetery?
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masonfisk19 January 2020
Another Audie Murphy Western from 1961. A group of men ride into a town & proceed to rob & kill w/o abandon w/the sheriff being one of the victims & a woman kidnapped (& raped repeatedly). Enter Murphy, a newly hired deputy, thrust into a situation where a posse has to be formed to go after the killers. Murphy is not too pleased w/the motley crew assembled (the uncle of the kidnapped girl, a former military man, a bank representative sent along to recover the money, et al) but he's a professional & along w/an expert tracker, they stay within killing distance of the murderous pack. After a time, the posse members are killed off or leave so Murphy soon comes to the realization he'll have to overcome his own hang-ups to get the job done which works well since the prey they're after is more metaphoric than anything finally. W/a supporting cast consisting of John Saxon, Frank Overton, Royal Dano, Lee Van Cleef & Vic Morrow (Jennifer Jason Leigh's dad) as the head of the killing crew.
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Better-than-usual Murphy film
Marlburian3 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Most Audie Murphy Westerns are OK, with a basic plot and very average cast, but PFH is better than average. There were lots of familiar faces in the cast, even though I couldn't put names to all of them without checking. Two were slightly out of character: Ray Teal as a banker and John Saxon as a tenderfoot. Lee van Cleef in an early role didn't have much to do before expiring, but his villainous persona was evident.

I was impressed with the way that gunshots propelled their victims backward, in contrast to the dignified collapse so often seen in Westerns,but PFH maintained the other irritating tradition of men -in this case the posse - riding off for what was obviously a very long ride with no apparent provisions.

I've always had this slight problem with Audie in that he doesn't actually look a tough guy (yes, I do know about his fantastic war record)and Randolph Scott or Burt Lancaster would have been more authentic, judging from some of their hatchet-faced portrayals of unforgiving avengers.

The only really weak point was the twee and unconvincing romantic ending.
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Posse from Hollyfad
Brooks-915 September 1999
The producer spent enough money on this film for it to have been a real tribute to Murphy and some new talent that came along with him. In spite of liberal financing, the chemistry of the picture is as a gourmet meal spoiling & decomposing over some hot days of being left out on the table -- and yet not as if this film had gone stale from protracted timing or over-working. Simply put: the production money had been spent in the wrong places; although technically, there was no lacking of potential, and a number of scenes are actually very good -- only to be spoilt in brand "x" followups & careless errors. The screenwriting editors seem greatly to be blamed. The cinematography was "competent" TV-style dead-panning, with little imagination. It seemed to have been deliberately sabotaged by corny, even shoddy, lapses in set, dialogue, and cinematography -- all set to lavishly overdone Gershwin music. It is as if somebody tried to make an upside-down parody of 'Schindler's List' into a Western -- and succeeded in canning all of the "vitality" of the picture. This film is as if all of the life had been taken out of 'Hud' and lot's of action / colour had been forced-in instead. This film is a cinematographical nightmare that one has in the early morning hours before awaking, after eating too much of a rich dinner. Audie should have known better than to have made this film the way it was; he ought to have produced it himself and done it right. In sum, 'POSSE...' is one of the examples of fine Westerns ceasing to be made. At best, it paved the way for the "spaghetti" phenomena that ushered in the Clint Eastwood era...and the last death throws of the Westerns' golden age [...1927-1961...]. One can only ask, 'Why?'
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