The timeframe of the film is also not specified, but judging by the women’s dresses, it is the late 1900s. But typical for 1950s westerns, the men dress like it’s the present day. Lancaster and the other cowboys wear jeans (Burt’s fit him like a glove), which no self-respecting cowboy would have worn at the time. Jeans were for farmers. Otherwise, Burt’s clothes look lived in when we first see him coming in off the range in his sheepskin coat and handsome Stetson (though a real working cowboy’s hat would be a good deal more worse for wear and sweat-stained). The other hats in the film are straight out of the box from the nearest western outfitters.
Though guns are brandished during much of the film, there’s little actual gunplay. We get two magnificent fistfights instead, Lancaster with his substantial frame landing most of the punches. But when the guns come out, they have the miraculous ability to shoot weapons from hands and hit their running and riding human targets without effort from considerable distances. When this happens, we leave reality and head straight for the land of western myth.
Vengeance Valley is a well-above-average western revenge tale, with several twists. The central character is the target of revenge rather than the perpetrator, and the reason for it is not a murdered wife or other family member. Instead, we get an “adult” theme involving an unwed mother, who gives birth to a baby at the beginning of the film but refuses to divulge the identity of the father. Her brothers (played by John Ireland and High O’Brian in an early role) intend to kill the father; the only problem is that they’ve fingered the wrong man. The real culprit is Lancaster’s double-crossing foster brother. How this all works out provides an entertaining 82 minutes for western fans.