Bend of the River is a serviceable 1952 James Stewart Western. Directed by Anthony Mann, Stewart plays Glyn McLyntock, a remorseful ex border raider who is leading a band of settlers from Missouri to Oregon. Following a treacherous journey and a brief stop in the quiet town of Portland, the group reach their isolated destination but when their much needed supplies don’t arrive, McLyntock journeys back to the town to find it very changed. The film features themes of redemption, trust and romance and while it held me attention for its 91 minutes, it’s far from a classic and not quite as good as Mann and Stewart’s 1950 collaboration, Winchester ’73.
Many of the landscapes and sets become interchangeable and the film manages to deceive the viewer by switching between location and studio shots. The on location shooting is back dropped by beautiful vistas and unspoiled landscapes. This is certainly a good looking film and the beauty is exaggerated by the vibrant Technicolor. The costume design is also very good and I enjoyed the first visit to the tiny settlement of Portland, a mere dot on the map compared to the large city it has become. The difference between McLyntock’s first and second visit is also well done if not a little over done.