As usual for these 12-disc fifty-movie sets, one disc has six short movies: this one. These are all oaters, B-movie programmers of an hour or less, mostly low-budget short-plot flicks. Four with John Wayne; one each with Bob Steele and Crash Corrigan.
Texas Terror, 1935, b&w. Robert N. Bradbury(dir. & screenplay), John Wayne, Lucile Browne, LeRoyMason, Ferm Emmett, George Hays. 0:51.
Wayne’s the newly-elected sheriff. The man who pretty much raised him comes by the office, shows the wad of cash he’s withdrawn from Wells Fargo to restock his ranch now that his daughter’s coming home in a few months, notes that he’d tied his horse up behind Wells Fargo, and rides off. Almost immediately thereafter, three gunmen rob Wells Fargo; in chasing them, Wayne winds up in a shootout with results that make him believe (a) that he—Wayne—shot the old man (we know it was one of the gunmen) and (b) that the old man might have been one of the bandits, since they dumped the money bag and one wad of bills on his corpse. After the town (jury?) concludes that the old man
had to have been a bandit—after all, people saw him tie up his horse behind Wells Fargo—Wayne resigns his position, turning it back over to the old sheriff (George Hayes, not in the Gabby persona). Wayne goes off, grows a beard, and becomes…well, that’s not clear.
Lots’o’plot, much of it involving the daughter, and most of it makes just as much sense as the idea that Wayne wouldn’t mention during the court hearing that the old man had told him his horse was tied up where it was. But hey, if you like lots of riding, some shooting, and a band of friendly Indians saving the day, I guess it’s OK. Generously, $0.75.
Wildfire, 1945, color. Robert Tansey (dir.), Bob Steele, Sterling Holloway, John Miljan, Eddie Dean. 0:59
An unusual entry: late (1945) and in color, but still a one-hour flick with lots of riding, lots of shooting, a couple of good fights—and a singing cowboy (actually sheriff in this case, Eddie Dean) who gets the girl. The plot, not in the order it unfolds: a gang is rustling all the horses from ranches in one valley and blaming it on Wildfire, a wild stallion—and it turns out horse theft is a sideline: the motivation is for one gang member to buy up the ranches cheap, since he already has a contract to sell them to a big ranch for a big profit. Two itinerant horse-traders with a tendency to stay on the right side of the law wind up in the middle of this and expose it.
The color’s a little faded, but the whole thing’s good enough that I’d probably give it six bits—except for one thing: however they “digitized” this, at several points it looks like a projector losing its grip on film sprockets, losing chunks of the action and disrupting continuity. With that, it goes down to $0.50.
Paradise Canyon, 1935, b&w. Carl Pierson (dir.), John Wayne, Marion Burns, Reed Howes, Earle Hodgins, Gino Corrado, Yakima Canutt. 0:53.
John Wayne again, this time as a government agent sent to investigate counterfeit traffic that may be connected to a medicine show. (One person went to jail for ten years for counterfeiting, and may be running such a show.) He finds the show—which has a habit of leaving towns suddenly, either for not paying debts or because the proprietor tends to drink his own tonic, go to town, bust things up and not pay for them (his tonic is “90% alcohol,” which is 180 proof and should make it flammable). For that matter, he helps the show evade arrest by getting them across the Arizona/New Mexico border just ahead of the law, and joins the show as a sharpshooter.
The next town is a New Mexico/Mexico border town—and turns out the medicine show’s not really involved any more: instead, the counterfeiter, who framed the medicine man, is now operating out of a saloon on the Mexican side. One thing leads to another with lots of riding, lots of shooting and some true sharpshooting, and of course both the good guys winning and John Wayne getting the girl—with a mildly cute surprise ending.
The highlight is probably the medicine man’s pitch, a truly loopy piece of speechifying, including his assurance that he once knew a man without a tooth in his head…and that man became the best bass drum player he ever knew! All it takes is determination, and Doc Carter’s Famous Indian Remedy.
Not great, not terrible. Once again we have Yakima Canutt doing something more than trick riding—he’s the villain in the piece. (Wayne does not sing; the two singing entertainers in the medicine show are…well, that’s six minutes I’ll never get back again.) I’ll give it $0.75
The Lucky Texan, 1934, b&w. Robert N. Bradbury (dir. & writer), John Wayne, Barbara Sheldon, Lloyd Whitlock, George Hayes, Yakima Canutt. 0:55.
This time, John Wayne’s Jerry Mason just out of college and returned to the ranch of old geezer Jake Benson, who more or less brought him up—and finds that the ranch’s cattle have all been rustled, but Benson’s opening up a blacksmith shop in town. Wayne immediately starts working there, and an early customer’s horse had picked up a stone—a stone that, when Wayne looks at it, seems to have gold in it. (It must have been a thriving smithy, since the geezer refuses payment for dealing with the horse’s problem…) Oh, and Benson’s pretty young granddaughter’s about to finish college (thanks in part to the geezer’s monthly checks) and returning soon.
One thing leads to another, and we have Wayne and Benson (not a TV series, but it could be) getting really good pure gold out of the site where they figured the horse had been; when they go to sell it, the assayer pays them…and then notes to his sidekick that he now “owned” most of Benson’s cattle.
More plot; the villains trick the geezer into signing a deed to the ranch; the sheriff’s son shoots the banker in a holdup just after Benson pays off the loan for the blacksmith shop (and Benson seems like a likely culprit until John Wayne Saves the Day)…and more. As always, it all works out in the end, which involves the usual Wayne-and-the-girl wedding. No singing; lots of fist fights (with no phony sounds—lots of grunting, but not much more); oddly enough, although two men are shot (and two others are shot at), there’s not a single death in the movie. There is, on the other hand, Wayne surfing down a sluice riding on a tree branch—and a chase scene involving Hayes semi-driving a car (he’d never driven before) and the villains on a powered railway car, in an almost slapsticky sequence. (That long chase is also the only time in an old Western I’ve ever seen The Hero, Wayne in this case, jump from his horse to tackle the villain on his horse…and miss, tumbling down a hill.)
George Hayes gets to show his dramatic abilities pretending to be his sister (you’d have to see it—he’d played the lead in Charley’s Aunt many years before, and does a good job in drag), and although he now has Gabby Hayes’ intonation and look, he’s not playing the fool by any means, and not even the sidekick—after all, it’s his ranch and his blacksmith shop. Another one with Yakimah Canutt doing more than stunt riding (although he did plenty of that—apparently chasing himself at one point), once again playing a bad guy (something he was very good at). (I would note that many of the reviews at IMDB call George Hayes “Gabby” or “Gaby” Hayes—but he didn’t become Gabby Hayes until later on in his career.)
Maybe I’m getting soft as I near the end of this marathon, but this one seemed pretty good; I’ll give it $1.
Riders of the Whistling Skull, 1937, b&w. Mack V. Wright (dir.), Robert Livingston, Ray Corrigan, Max Terhune, Mary Russell, Roger Williams, Yakima Canutt, Fern Emmett, Chief Thundercloud. 0:58 [0:53]
A few archaeologists and a trio of cowboys known as The Three Mesquiteers are out to plunder a lost Indian city, or as they put it, rediscover it and recover all the golden treasure. A bunch of Native Americans don’t like this idea, and attempt to discourage them. One half-Native American, who passes himself off as one of the party, had previously kidnapped the father of the beautiful young (female) anthropologist and has been torturing him to reveal the location of the treasure.
Of course, this being a B Western from the 1930s, the plunderers are the heros and it’s a great thing that they manage to shoot at least half a dozen Native Americans and bury more of them under a wildly implausible collapse of half a mountain. Naturally, it all ends “well,” with the most handsome of the Mesquiteers getting the girl and an older and plainer woman (another sort-of archaeologist) getting the less handsome of the Mesquiteers. (In this one, Yakima Canutt plays the American Indian guide who’s in cahoots with the half-Native American.)
Reasonably well staged and with continuous action, but it’s also blatantly offensive. If you can ignore that, maybe $0.75.
Randy Rides Alone, 1934, b&w. Harry L. Fraser (dir.), John Wayne, Alberta Vaughn, George Hayes, Yakima Canutt, Earl Dwire. 0:53.
This cowboy riding along tops a ridge and spots the roof of a building—a halfway house saloon. He hears the honky-tonk piano and goes in…only to discover that everybody’s dead and the piano is a player piano. As he looks over the situation, including an open safe, the sheriff and his posse show up…and, naturally enough, arrest the cowboy. But we saw eyes moving in a painting on the wall…and after they’ve gone, a young woman steps out and inspects the scene.
Thus begins a story involving a hearing mute who runs a local store, the young woman breaking the cowboy out of jail so he can find the real killers, a gang hideaway for a gang run by…oh, let’s not give it all away. Lots of riding, a fistfight or two, some shooting, and of course all ends well. This time, George Hayes (not at all in the “Gabby” persona) plays the lead villain (and the—spoiler—mute shopkeeper) and Yakima Canutt plays the chief henchman.
The flick seems padded at 53 minutes, and Wayne is notable mostly for his young good looks. Generously, $0.75.