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Luke Short's novel was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post between March 15, 1941 and April 26, 1941. Its British publication title was Blood on the Moon. Although the Homestead Act of 1862 was not mentioned in the film itself, the Daily Variety review notes that the story's action takes place after the passage of the legislation, which granted free family farms to settlers. A June 1947 Hollywood Citizen-News news item reported that James Stewart was to star in the picture. According to the Los Angeles Daily News review, exteriors for the film were shot thirty miles from Flagstaff, AZ. A Hollywood Reporter news item, however, claims that location shooting was done in New Mexico. In a modern interview, director Robert Wise added the following information about the production: RKO bought Short's novel years before his involvement in the project, but shelved it because of script problems. Wise and producer Theron Warth liked the story, however, and got RKO's "front office" to agree to allow them to make the picture if they could solve the script's problems. Although Wise had directed several films prior to Blood on the Moon, including The Curse of the Cat People and The Body Snatcher (see entries below), he described this picture as his "first big feature." Wise noted that he strove for realism in the cantina fight scene, in contrast to most film brawls, directing Robert Mitchum and Robert Preston to "go at it really all the way" so that "even the winner is almost completely exhausted at the end." Wise added that the fight is "the most distinctive scene in the whole film." Contemporary reviewers also singled out the scene for praise: the Hollywood Citizen-News critic commented that "the fistfight is about the best thing Blood on the Moon has to offer," while the New York Times review noted that the fight "ought to satisfy most savage instincts." The New York Times also pointed out that Wise, "a comparative newcomer to directorial ranks...has managed to keep the atmosphere of this leisurely paced film charged with impending violence."