Westerns, like Mayor Curley and The Great Stone Face, should never change. Each is an indestructible commodity unique to this country, and each has a strange magnetic quality about it that attracts hard cash. In the case of the horse-opera, this lure is excitement, the old-fashioned kind of excitement. Generations of frustrated cowboys have tolerated the same ragged plots over an over again simply for the emotional release they get through seeing a guy riddled with blanks and squirting tomato juice all over the lot. When they don't get this gunplay, when the picture gets arty and wanders out of its realm, western fans feel cheated; they get angry and bored.
"Four Faces West" is one of those soft, goreless westerns, and it pleases neither the addict nor the casual moviegoer. What it lacks mainly is an original gimmick to replace the familiar action. Without this the movie is a formless as a jellyfish and generates about the same interest. Joel McCrea portrays a sincere bank-robber who hoists 2,000 realm of New Mexican sandstone wishing to hell he hadn't taken the dough. He falls in love with a nice-looking girl, does a few good deeds, said turns himself in before things get too hot.
The picture is equally undistinguished from a technical standpoint. Shot in the wonderfully-colored southwestern badlands without benefit of Technicolor, "Four Faces West" is remarkable for the monotonous recurrence of the same scenery. Either they ran out of gas or the cameraman had gout, but the entire script, chases and all, could have been shot within a 25-foot circle. And the title,--ah, the title. Just what manner of animal has four faces all of which are turned westward is a nifty little mystery that can occupy your mind for at least five seconds. It could be the hero, but no four faced scoundrel he. The one new wrinkle in this whole dreary business is that Mr. McCrea makes one of his escapes on a cow. He rides it magnificently.
Second on the list of attractions is "Bad Sister," an English offering that ranks far below the usual foreign product. Margaret Lockwood and Joan Greenwood, two very nice-looking dames, take the audience to the Riveria and Finland on a pair of tragic love affairs. The high point comes in Finland where Miss Lockwood is serenaded by a high-frequencied soprano with a face like a bilious brook trout.