Cowboys run wild in Wichita, Kansas. Jacques Tourneur's CinemaScope western from 1955 is an unusually sober, clean-lined film for this director who most-excels at pervasive, intangible ambiance. Yet this is one scene, of cowboys finally arriving in a boom town—advertised by ‘anything goes in Wichita’ and ‘wine, women, Wichita’—after too long on the trail has a spectral terror in crucial contradistinction to the uncompromising order proposed and later enforced by Joel McCrea’s Wyatt Earp.
Daniel Ullman’s script turns backroom political dealings into high drama; Tourneur’s poised and lyrical direction elevates it to a sort of secular scripture.
In short, what identifies a Tourneur picture isn’t strictly speaking a style, a manner, or a group of themes, but rather a way of perceiving the world -– one that perpetually finds ambiguities and leaves troubled impressions.