Featured Post

Featured Post - Mystery Movie Marathon

I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

The Devil and Miss Sarah (1971)

The movie opens with a man tied to some stakes in the middle of an Indian village with a hood over his head. A posse rides in and takes him away. Seems the locals were holding him prisoner for this very reason. The marshal, Duncan, keeps him hooded until after they leave the village. He explains this to the other men as the Indians thinking that the man, Rankin, is the devil and not to look into his eyes. Though if he believes this then why take the hood off? They ride off into the desert but are ambushed by some different Indians. Rankin thinks he is free but Duncan isn’t dead and gets the drop on him. This leads them to riding off and finding a couple traveling. They are Gil and his wife Sarah.

When the marshal dies Gil decides to take Rankin to the local stagecoach weigh station. But before they even start the trip it becomes clear that the outlaw has some sort of influence over Sarah. We also find out that she has a gift and can see things before they happen. Here we get an idea that there is more to this than just a normal western story. Unfortunately, when they arrive the stagecoach is burned, and the survivors are hiding out in the buildings. Seems the Indians from earlier showed up and did this. The rest of the movie are the survivors fearing and bargaining with Rankin, who is clearly evil, until it comes down to he and Gil fighting for Sarah’s soul. At least I think so.

This is an interesting ABC movie of the week. It combines the Western genre with the Horror genre in a very subtle way. You never are quite sure if our villain, Rankin, really is some sort of demonic force or if he is just a man. What is clear though is his evil intentions as he seemingly doesn’t care if he lives or dies as long as he can create some chaos along the way. Then again, he does seem to have some sort of mental control over folks as he seems to control the Indians chasing them into attacking and then leaving on a whim. And of course, he almost gets Sarah to pick up a gun and murder her husband while he sleeps. So yeah, maybe there is something to it. Remember this was the seventies and demons twisting innocent folks into doing bad things was just getting into the swing as far as popular entertainment goes. 

Honestly, the fact that they keep this so vague is one of the reasons that I liked this movie so much. The last line of the movie is Gil saying something along the lines of “he was just an evil man” but even then, I wasn’t so sure. I mean we don’t get the big twist where the supposedly dead Rankin sits up and smiles evilly… though I could totally see that happen after the camera and our attention left his body. The movie was that creepy and I dug it. 

This is a small cast, but it is a good one. Janice Rule and James Drury play Sarah and Gil respectively. They were both working actors that did a ton of television work including a lot of westerns as were very good in the roles. Drury especially sells the fear and confusion of Rankin’s influence on his wife. We also get some supporting roles filled by Logan Ramsey (Joysticks, The Beast Within), Donald Moffat (The Thing), and Slim Pickens (Blazing Saddles). Now that is one hell of a cast! Though the highlight for me is Gene Barry as Rankin. The man was an absolute legend starring in many classic fifties’ television shows. Mostly as the good guy so this was certainly against type. 

Cool story filled with characters portrayed by excellent actors combine to make The Devil and Miss Sarah a neat way to kill seventy or so minutes. I’ve seen and covered a lot of these movies of the week for the site and have to say that this is one of the better ones. I’m sort of shocked that I hadn’t seen it before but am glad to have rectified that. It is on the internet to watch for free at the usual spots. I recommend that you give it a chance. 

© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

No comments:

Post a Comment