Former circus acrobat, Marshall Fields salesman and singing waiter Burt Lancaster was 38 when he made his 12th film, “Vengeance Valley,” showing Saturday, June 30 at downtown Peoria’s nonprofit Apollo Theater. It was the first western for the four-time Oscar-nominated actor, who went on to make such memorable westerns as “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral,” “Apache” and “Valdez is Coming.”
“Vengeance Valley” stars Lancaster and Robert Walker as cowboys raised as brothers by a cattle baron. Walker’s the biological son, who comes to resent his adopted brother (Lancaster). Combing action and drama, the plot turns on Walker’s character framing his stepbrother for fathering an illegitimate child – who is actually his. Greed fuels the hatred, since the scandal may be an opportunity to eliminate his half-brother to take control of their father’s empire.
The tone of mixing outdoors adventure and melodramatic situations is set in the narrator’s opening lines: “I got a story to tell, a yarn about cow country, cow punchers and men. I was working for the Strobie Ranch, a trade of worn leather and saddle blisters and branding irons – a trade with some song, some fun and some luck. It was as good a job as a man could ask for…”
The supporting cast is excellent, with Joanne Dru and Sally Forrest as strong women, and Hugh O’Brian and John Ireland as angry brothers of the wronged woman. Also featured are Ray Collins, Will Wright and Glenn Strange.
Show times at the Apollo are at 7:00 p.m. Donations are $5 and $4 for kids, students and seniors. For details call (309) 673-4343.