Better-than-average example of the genre.
Doghouse King | Omaha, NE United States | 08/01/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The Three Mesquiteers (get it?) were one of the Saturday matinee staples of the 30's, starring in more than 20 low-budget oaters never much more than 60 minutes in length. They did battle with all variety of sidewinders and banditos and claimjumpers and murderers. Crash Corrigan is perhaps the best known name to modern fans, but all three were likable types, handy with a horse and a gun.The Mesquiteers had no time for women, and were too busy working on their ranch to drink much or smoke or swear at all. And thankfully, there are no songs here to kill the momentum. But kill people, they did, with impunity. So many villains get thrown off cliffs or shot (bloodlessly, natch) in these movies, that the body count is akin to a small war. This aspect alone keeps Riders of the Whistling Skull from being cartoon-ish in the manner of Scooby Doo, one of its closest modern ilk. Yet there is a guileless innocence to the proceedings here that renders the mayhem all in fun: the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad and deserve to die before they kill more people. (This overlooks a few un-enlightened subtexts, but roll with it, okay?)The plot, as I hinted before, is like something from Scooby Doo, with a few more red herrings than that show typically adds. It involves the archaeological search for a mountain shaped like a skull, a map torn in pieces, and murders which may or may not be related to a legendary curse connected to the Whistling Skull. The group sets out and the murders continue. There are chases and shootouts and captures and rescues. It must've laid 'em flat in 1937.The "mystery" is solved (or rather, revealed) well before the end. But there's enough action that it really doesn't matter. The rescue of the scientist's daughter from a sacrificial ceremony in a cramped grotto offers good atmosphere. Bad staging in early scenes gets markedly better later, and some shots even manage to be beautiful, especially some forced perspectives of isolated craggy peaks against wispy clouds. They do look spooky, especially in black-and-white. The print of the movie and the sound get better, too; the recurring wind howling onscreen manages to heighten the tension as was its intent. Fine Republic miniature work (a good rock slide), a couple of nice stunts (a man hangs from a fraying rope over certain death- mandatory from Republic), and one decent "effect" (the skull-like cave itself) add to the fun. There's even a "mummy," although not in the Universal sense of the term. The manner in which our heroes defeat the evil cult behind it all is not altogether satisfying, but it's likely the production was coming to the end of its three-day shooting schedule. :-)While a notch below the polish of Roy Rogers' King of the Cowboys, a highwater mark of juvenile westerns, Riders of the Whistling Skull still possesses a lot of old-skool charm. If you like the Lone Ranger or old cliffhanger serials, give this a try."
Cowboys, Indians, and Archeologists?
Robert S. Clay Jr. | St. Louis, MO., USA | 03/03/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"A massive rock shaped as a human skull and a fierce Indian tribe guard an archeological treasure-trove in a lost valley. Things start to pop when the Three Mesquiteers and an expedition of archeologists searching for the treasure and a lost colleague enter the sacred Indian territory. This film is an entertaining Grade B western that includes the familiar elements of cliff-hanging western adventure and light humor. The unusual blend of western and archeology themes gives this little movie an unusual twist that adds to its appeal. "The Three Mesquiteers" was a familiar series of the '30s and '40s. The three saddle pals kept changing over time, and once included John Wayne before he became a major star. Good old Saturday matinee stuff. Kill an hour an enjoy yourself."