Yet another Schlesinger-produced John Wayne B movie.
27 May 2010 | by planktonrules (Bradenton, Florida)
Through the 1930s, most of John Wayne's films were B-westerns--much like the films of the like of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers--though (in most cases) without the singing (don't even get me started on the silly 'Singing Sandy' films he made). In general, the films are above average for these sort of movies, though series B-movies were never meant as high art. The writing was extremely simplistic as were the characters, but thanks to Wayne's nice acting and some exceptional stunt-work, most of the films are a lot of fun for lovers of the genre. Now not all of his films of this type were created equal. Some (such as his Three Mesquiteer series) were very enjoyable while others (many of his films done for Leon Schlesinger) were really, really bad. As this is a Schlesinger film, my hopes were not set really high, as the last two I watched ("Ride Him Cowboy" and "Haunted Gold") were just awful--a surprise since the films were distributed by Warner Brothers-Vitaphone Studio--a bigger-name company and higher status company than than those that usually produced cheap B westerns. Is this one any better? I could only hope! The film begins with Wayne meeting with the governor and volunteering to become a marshal in New Mexico and bring its lawlessness under control. This is a very typical sort of plot but is interesting because the governor portrayed was a real-life guy--General Lew Wallace (Berton Churchill). Wallace was a Civil general, governor and author of "Ben Hur" and seeing him as a character surprised me.
Like his other films, his co-star is his horse, 'Duke'. This is a bit ironic, as 'the Duke' was later Wayne's nickname and, in general, this smart horse was the best thing going for these movies! It was so smart and talented, it could have rivaled Roy Rogers' beloved Trigger in intelligence and acting ability! As marshal, Wayne makes an apparently insane move and makes a low-down Mexican bandit-sort, Sonora, his deputy. Clearly, he must have read that he should do this in the script, as it made no sense--any sane lawman would have thought twice or three times before handing a badge to this guy! Yet, as I said, it was in the script, so you know it will work out for the better by the end of the film! And together they take on the chief baddie (Noah Beery). Can you guess who wins in the end?! The film has a better plot than most of the Schlesinger/Wayne films. The bad guy is also better and more memorable than most. As for the stunts, they are once again the highlight of the film. I assumed that it's Yakima Canutt in charge of the great stunt-work, but IMDb did not indicate this--meaning there must have been some other great stunt men doing some of these insanely dangerous and cool stunts OR it was a Canutt job after all but he just isn't credited. Regardless, the work is impressive even today and you wonder how they got anyone crazy enough to do these tricks! Overall, it's a very pleasant little B-film. Compared to other films in this crowded genre, it's very good. It certainly cannot be compared to a typical full-length western, but for what it is it's nice. My score of 7 is relative to other B westerns. What a pleasant surprise! By the way, if the name Schlesinger is familiar, it should be. He's the guy who oversaw production of cartoons for Warner Brothers for several decades. Apparently, I heard he hated cartoons and his job, but he was certainly a lot more successful with them than with B westerns.