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The Capture (1950) John Sturges

The Capture (1950)

Directed by John Sturges

Produced and written by Niven Busch

Cinematography by Edward Cronjager

Niven Busch Productions, Showtime Properties

Distributed by RKO Pictures

Amazon Prime (1:31)

Lin Vanner (Lew Ayres), an oil company manager, discovers that the company payroll has been stolen. Lin’s fiancée (Jacqueline White) prompts him to go after the thief himself, hoping Lin might be able to earn both recognition and a nice reward. Although he doesn’t have much to go on, Lin suspects the thief may try to slip over the border into Mexico. Believing he has the right man trapped, Lin demands the suspect raise his hands and surrender. When he doesn’t, Lin shoots and injures the man, a rancher named Sam Tevlin (Edwin Rand), who insists that he's innocent. Lin begins to have his own doubts as well, but it’s too late: Tevlin dies and Lin still doesn’t hasn’t recovered the stolen money.


Not knowing what to do, Lin wanders into Tevlin’s Mexican ranch. Is he going to apologize to Tevlin’s widow Ellen (Teresa Wright) and her son (Jimmy Hunt)? No. Lin’s guilt doesn’t allow him enough courage to do so. Instead, he passes himself off as Lin Brown, a laborer looking for work. So here’s a man living with the broken remnants of a family he helped destroy. So far, we have the beginnings of a pretty good film noir (including Lin’s telling this story to a priest in flashback). Yet things quickly fall apart.

The biggest problem with The Capture revolves around a script that allows things to happen far too easily. Ellen allows Lin, a complete stranger, to work the ranch with very little resistance. Her son, initially opposed to the presence of another man besides his father, welcomes him minutes later, becoming his best pal. The film contains many more too-unbelievable-to-be-true moments that also serve as spoilers, so I’ll avoid them here. Things begin to look up when Lin decides he’s going to track down the real payroll bandit, seeking cooperation from oil company president Earl Mahoney (Barry Kelly), but that plot line quickly ventures into a clumsy finale. None of the characters display much consistency, especially the meek Lin, who turns into a relentless crusader for justice, or the embittered Ellen, who openly embraces the man who killed her husband. And don't get me started about the ending, which is meant to provide a "Now the tables have turned" moment, but is actually quite embarrassing.

Somewhere in the midst of The Capture lies a good story, and for about the first 25 minutes, it works. Fans of Teresa Wright, Lew Ayres, and director John Sturges will want to check the film out and any appearance by Barry Kelly is always worth a look, but overall, The Capture is a disappointment. Maybe Teresa Wright’s then-husband Niven Busch was looking for another role for her that would equal the excellent noir Western Pursued (1947), also written by Busch. Unfortunately The Capture was the first of several Teresa Wright films that performed poorly at the box office, such as Something to Live For (1952), California Conquest (1952), The Steel Trap (1952), and others, despite the fact that Wright gave good performances in them. (And The Steel Trap, by the way, is a little gem that deserves to be seen.)

The Capture is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime, but be warned that the running time given is 1 hour 42 minutes, which is inaccurate. For some reason, Amazon includes an additional 11 minutes of black screen after the credits, perhaps as a requiem for the film?

Photos: CineMaterial, RareFilm

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