I remember that this was one of the first films John talked about when I joined film club, and it reminded me that I had a lot of catching up to do in my classic film viewing. Especially classic film that wasn't AFI-certified. I think one of the best things I am learning about going back and watching films according to their years is that there are so many great films around that no one ever hears about. COLORADO TERRITORY is one of 'em.
What an inspired idea to take this noir-ish story of love and doom and turn it into a western. It works just as well in this setting (maybe some would say better even) as it does in HIGH SIERRA. And what a great story it is too. Even though I knew I was watching the same basic story as HS, it still always seemed fresh and exciting. It helps when you have really fine performers like McCrea and Mayo to breathe new life into their characters. It also helps when you've got someone like Walsh who knows how to make the film distinctive enough to its own setting that it actually stands on its own.
And you are right Brandon, this ending is an improvement on HS, if only because it focuses more on the two leads together as opposed to singling out just one. Mayo's character is more rugged than Lupino's, so it makes sense that she would go down shooting. But they are both just as loyal to their lovable outlaws, so having them both go down with their men, as the doomed lovers they are, makes sense as well. CT seems to understand this connection between the two characters better. But HS's ending is still great–it's just more tragic.
Also, I watched JOHNNY GUITAR and it is equally awesome. You are hooked right from the intense opening moments when Vienna literally has her back to the wall, surrounded by an angry mob and one of the most odious female villains in all of film. From there it is just terrific entertainment, a pervading sense of uneasiness, and the wonderful eye of Ray. Another great one.