Low-rent version of "The Big Trail"...
Mark Savary | Seattle, WA | 06/10/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A semi-clone of "The Big Trail", Cooper takes over the spot DUKE played, as a frontiersman/guide for a wagon train.While "Fighting Caravans" is not as expansive as "The Big Trail", and while the young Gary Cooper is no young John Wayne, this early western is pretty entertaining. In the story, Cooper helps the wagon train fend off Indians and evil traders, while his two crusty companions try and save him from falling in love. There's plenty of action, and there's even a hint of pre-code Hollywood, as Cooper's character practically attempts to blackmail his new sweetheart into fooling around with him.Laserlight/Delta found a pretty fair print, but there are several missing frames. The image will occasionally "black out", but while annoying, does not interfere with viewing. Originally 92 minutes, this print seems to be more or less intact, missing perhaps two or three minutes.The story moves along well, and the opening credits alone are pretty snazzy for 1931.The film has much to recommend it, and while "The Big Trail" is superior, this early Cooper vehicle is worth adding to your western DVD collection. Especially for the low price the disc is being offered at, you should definitely pick this one up.Film fans should look (or listen!), for Eugene Pallette, of "The Adventures of Robin Hood" fame. He's here in a minor supporting role some seven years before he played Friar Tuck."
WAGON TRAINS AND KIOWA INDIANS
Kay's Husband | Virginia, U.S.A. | 07/31/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
It would be unfair of me to be too critical of this 1931 movie which appeared early into the 'talkie' era of movies. And based on a Zane Grey novel of the late 1920s the fictional background is somewhat sound. That said, however, the major point of the scout becoming outdated by the railroad just is not true. The railroads were not connected until four years after the Civil War in 1869 at Provo, Utah, but the era of the frontier scout continued up to and a little past 1890 at Wounded Knee in the Dakotas.
I have the latest 2 disc copy of The Big Trail so I am not unaware of that movie, but I see little resemblance between these two films, though the directors could not have been unaware of either Zane Grey's book or each other's movies.
For me the scenes of this movie are not tied together well and the resultant condition seems somewhat ragged, with Cooper being off screen almost as much as he is on. Leaving his two scout mentors soaking up a lot of time on screen. And though the movie has its action moments, much of the time very little is really happening. One standout in the movie is Lili Damita, her role and her acting cannot be understated. Cooper is young without his later varnish, but much of what he will later become does show through. While Lili Damita is very accomplished and holds her own with all the actors.
I must attest also that I have several movies from the early and mid-1930s, 24 Hopalong Cassidy movies especially, and any of those are much better in their clarity and storyline. I also treasure the early John Wayne movies (20) that are in many places really not much above 'silent movies' with only music playing as the horses clamber over the plains. So it is just not the fact of this movie having a 1931 date that is uncomfortable to me, it is really the lack of cohesion and smoothness. Even the early Gene Autry movies are much more accomplished.
I read westerns as well as enjoy western movies, but I cannot give this effort more than 3 stars. It may just be my copy of the movie on DVD, but unless some scenes have been excised or edited out, for me the movie remains very uneven. It is a movie to see if you are at all interested in westerns or if you have an interest in early Hollywood black and white movies, or even early Gary Cooper. But for the general viewer I don't think this movie will afford them that much enjoyment.
Michael Fisher | Arlington, VA United States | 07/14/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First, I'm reviewing the book, not the movie as those above seem to be doing.
Zane Grey is hit and miss. I don't like Riders of the Purple Sage (which seems to be the book by him most people read first), but this is one of the great ones.
You really feel for the hero (and heroine) of the story and Grey really brings to life of freight haulers who made settling the west possible.
For comparison, I also really like Twin Sombreros and Knights of the Range (about Brazos Keene)."