A pair of sub-part B Westerns from a young John Wayne
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 06/23/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"What we have here are a pair of sub-par B Westerns done by a young John Wayne for Lone Star/Monogram Studio in the period before he upgraded to Republic Pictures. "The Lawless Frontier" is the tenth of these early oaters. Robert N. Bradbury did the story, screenplay, and direction for this 1934 film, which is actually a bit more complicated that most of these oaters. Wayne plays John Tobin, whose parents are killed by the bandit Pandro Zanti (Earl Dwire with a woeful Mexican accent). Eight years later Tobin returns and when Zanti hurts Dusty (George Hayes), Tobin decides it is time to bring down the gang. But things get complicated because the sheriff (Jack Rockwell) thinks Tobin is part of the gang and when Dusty gets shot, he arrests Tobin. Of course there is also a purty young gal, Ruby (Sheila Terry). There is not much there to really enjoy from the actor who would eventually become known as the Duke. For example, in "The Lawless Frontier" you can see him doing an early version of his trademark gait. But the main attraction here, more often than not, is the work of the legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt. He plays Joe, one of Zanti's henchmen, and doubles for Wayne in a pretty good stunt involving riding a log through an arroyo. The actor billed as Buffalo Bill, Jr. playing another of Zanti's henchmen is really an actor/stuntman named Jay Wilsey, who was no relation to the famous cowboy showman and who stared in a series of B- Westerns during the silent era (e.g, "Rawhide Romance"). Also from 1934, "Randy Rides Alone" is directed by Harry L. Fraser from a story and screenplay by Lindsley Parsons, this seventh Wayne film in this series has a similar story to the second, 1933's "Sagebrush Trail." Once again our hero, this time named Randy Bowers ("He rode the Danger Trail!"), is in jail for a murder that he did not commit. However, Randy gets sprung by his gal, Sally Rogers (Alberta Vaughn) and as is usually the case ends up undercover with the real outlaws in an effort to bring the gang and its leader, Marvin Black (George Hayes) to justice. Actually, Black is the more interesting character because he pretends to be the mute Marvin Matthews, the owner of the local General Store. Of course, seeing Gabby Hayes without his beard (and technically before he had really evolved his sidekick character made infamous by the Hopalong Cassidy westerns), takes a bit of getting used to. The charade allows him to keep tabs on what the sheriff (Earl Dwire) is up to and plan accordingly. The set up is fairly standard and so is the way the action plays out in the end. Legendary stunt man Yakima Canutt is Spike, and he doubles for pretty much anybody doing anything worthy watching in terms of the stunts. As always, avoid the colorized version of this Lone Star Western. These are low budget westerns by a Poverty Row studio. They are what they are, more curiosities than anything memorable, so dressing them up is not worth the effort. They provide a look at Wayne learning his craft but you can certainly find better examples than this pair."