Eight Oaters For a Sawbuck!
Gary Peterson | Omaha, Nebraska USA | 12/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a treasure these Great American Western DVDs have proven to be for fans of the old shoot-'em-ups, singing cowboys and series westerns!
Volume 35 features four black-and-white B-movies and each clocks in at just under an hour. The qualty of the prints is not pristine, but are clear and watchable and are likely the best surviving and/or available prints of these often unfairly forgotten and neglected films.
HIT THE SADDLE (1937) features the Three Mesquiteers (Bob Livingston, Ray "Crash" Corrigan and Max Terhune providing the comedy). The leading lady is Rita Cansino (before she went uptown and was rechristened Rita Hayworth) who steals the heart of and makes beautiful music with Bob Livingston in a nice duet. In the meantime, the baddies (including stuntman extraordinaire Yakima Canutt in an always-welcome acting role) are stealing wild horses from federal lands and bump off the sheriff and pin the rap on a pinto horse. An action-packed picture, but what I remember most is Terhune's ventriloquist act with his dummy Elmer giving a temperance speech in the saloon.
SAGEBRUSH TRAIL (1933) is one of the best of John Wayne's series of Lone Star Westerns. This one has a compelling plot and a coincidence right out of a Dickens novel, but like anything by the Immortal Boz, it leads to a satisfying conclusion. Yak Canutt and Lane Chandler as Duke's friend are also excellent here.
YUKON FLIGHT (1940) features James Newill and Dave O'Brien as Sergeant Renfrew and Constable Kelly of the Mounties. This was my favorite film on the disc, with a strong story, just enough humor and some very enjoyable singing. Singing Mounties later became the stuff of satire (Dudley Do-Right and Paul Lynde's hilarious guest spot on F TROOP come to mind), but here it is played straight and it works well.
THE PINTO BANDIT (1944) will give you deja vu since here we have the stars of the previous film reunited and playing Texas Rangers. Here Newill and O'Brien are joined by Panhandle Perkins as the obligatory third wheel providing comic relief, and Guy Wilkerson does a fine job in the part. The Rangers come to the aid of a brother and sister Pony Express operation that several parties want to take over. There are some twists and turns to the story that kept it from being predictable (the ending surprised me). Panhandle provides some laughs and Newill a few songs and it makes for a very pleasant hour.
Volume 36, which comes in a box with Volume 35 (but each in a separate case), is another treasure chest of fun flicks from the forties and even a color picture from the fifties.
THE CISCO KID: THE GAY BANDIT (1949) feautures Duncan Renaldo as Cisco and Leo Carillo as Pancho. There was real chemistry between these two and they inject some life into the old plot of good guys being mistook for bad guys by the authorities and so having to bring in the bad guys to vindicate themselves. Clayton Moore is also on hand in a role that must have been played just before he would become forever associated with the Lone Ranger, which premiered on TV this very same year.
JESSE JAMES' WOMEN (1954) is the highlight of this volume and a highlight in the career of Don "Red" Barry, who wrote, directed, produced and starred in this 84-minute color epic. This film finds Jesse and the James Gang in Mississippi where we see him already turning on the charm and wooing a gaggle of women, from the banker's daughter, to a young teen-ager to a singing saloonkeeper named Waco Gans (played by Peggy Castle). Into this combustible mix comes a fiery old squeeze of Jesse's, Cattle Kate, and it isn't long before the fur flies. Of course Red Barry's Jesse is pretty whitewashed and has only the most tenuous connection to history. Barry's Jesse is a loveable scamp and a cad. Memorable vignettes such as when Jesse challenges traveling pug Champ O'Toole to a fight, good acting by a largely unknown cast and especially the infectious feeling that everyone involved was having fun makes this picture a winner.
Next up is Ken Maynard in LIGHTNING STRIKES WEST (1940), and if you're familiar with Maynard at his peak you may wince at his expanding waistline and the emaciated budget of this poverty row picture. Nonetheless, it is enjoyable in its own right as Maynard as the Old West equivalent of a G-Man goes undercover to bust the bad guys, among whom is familiar face Charles King.
Rounding out the set are Roy Rogers and Gabby Hayes in YOUNG BUFFALO BILL (1940). I admit I've never been a big fan of Roy Rogers, especially his films that were set in modern times with cars and airplanes, but this one is set in the 1860s with Roy playing the title role and with Gabby at his side. And it's always nice to see Chief Thundercloud at work.
Two great volumes of the Great American Western, just as are most of the volumes that preceded it, and well worth the few bucks for the many hours of old school Saturday afternoon matinee fun they deliver."