Rudolph Maté’s Branded emerged at the dawn of the 1950′s. It stars Alan Ladd and is little remembered today, due in part to Ladd’s being cast in George Stevens’ phenomenally popular Shane a mere three years later. I do not side with the consensus of contemporary criticism in the reassessment that says Stevens’ classic is overrated, just as I will not concede to revisionist opinions regarding High Noon (1952), although I do believe there were, and still are, better westerns: Henry King’s The Gunfighter, Budd Boetticher’s‘ The Tall T, or Anthony Mann’s Naked Spur. However,Branded is as almost as good as the film which sealed the surprising superstardom of Ladd.
There is something quintessentially cinematic and mythic in the image of a man on a horse under an expansive sky. Branded fills that bill to the Technicolor brim, contradicting an often held opinion that Westerns simply look better in black and white. Sydney Boehm’s unpredictable screenplay comes from a Max Brand novel and meshes well with Maté’s sense of pacing.