Co-written by actor Leo Gordon for an offshoot of John Wayne’s Batjac Company, Escort West is a well-shot but ultimately dull Western starring Victor Mature. Set immediately after the Civil War, Mature plays a Confederate officer who is traveling westward with his daughter Elaine Stewart in the hopes of finding a better life away from a south that no longer exists for them.
During their journey, they’re joined by Faith Domergue and run up against renegade Yankee soldiers and a band of Modoc Indians. Mature dispatches them all, of course, in some nice-handled scenes that are marked by excellent widescreen compositions, courtesy of director of photography William Clothier.
The supporting cast is a who’s who of Batjac regulars, including Slim Pickens, Harry Carey and Ken Curtis. Screenwriter Gordon pops up for a turn, but the acting honors of the film go to the wonderful Rex Ingram. The multi-talented Ingram, perhaps best known as the Genie in Alexander Korda’s Thief of Bagdad, here plays a mule skinner with such quiet authority that he lifts his scenes way above the average.
Sadly, average is just what Escort West is. For all the talent in front of the camera, they could not overcome the pedestrian approach of director Francis D. Lyon. A utility director of the old school, Lyon had helmed the good Cult of the Cobra for Universal in 1955 and the second-rate Joel McCrea vehicle The Oklahoman for Allied Artists in 1957. Thanks to television, his most widely seen film may be the 1967 Scott Brady/Virginia Mayo horror flick Castle of Evil.
A decent craftsman, Lyon’s work on Escort West feels strictly “B,” and defeats the potential of the film. The movie was made for the double-bills, and taken in that context, Escort West can still be enjoyed as a well-shot time-waster.