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15 Wild Westerns: Marshals & Gunmen [2 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

Kentucky Rifle
In order to pass through Comanche territory, the stranded passengers of a West-bound wagon train must sell the Indians their rifles in this western from Carl Hittleman. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi

Gone With the West
An all-star cast including James Caan, Stefanie Powers and Sammy Davis, Jr. headlines this shoestring-budget revisionist western from 1975. Caan stars as Jud McGraw, a cowboy unjustly framed for a crime he didn't commit; he partners up with an ethically wronged Native American woman named Little Moon (Powers). In response to the ills they have each suffered, the two set off to wreak vengeance on a small western town. Onetime Alfred Hitchcock Presents directorial mainstay Bernard Girard helms. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi

Randy Rides Alone
In perhaps the most haunting opening of any B-Western, Randy Rides Alone has John Wayne enter a deserted saloon filled with corpses. To the tinny strains of a player-piano and with someone eerily peeking from behind a portrait of Ulysses S. Grant, Wayne's reconnaissance ends with his arrest for murder. No B-Western ground out in five days for around $10,000 could possibly live up to this introduction and Randy Rides Alone quickly gets down to business as usual. But director Harry L. Fraser and scenarist Lindsley Parsons still manage to get in a couple of off-beat touches. The killers, lead by stunt-man extraordinaire Yakima Canutt, are holed up in a cave picturesquely hidden behind a waterfall, and future comic relief George "Gabby" Hayes, looking for all the world like Lionel Barrymore, plays a mute, hunchbacked shop-keeper who may not be all he appears. Add to the mystery elements some extraordinary stunt-work by Canutt and you have a superior series Western. Cecilia Parker, one of the more gracious actresses to appear in low-budget fare, was all set to co-star as the murdered saloon owner's niece, but Wayne came down with the flu and production was delayed. When producer Paul Malvern was ready to begin again, Miss Parker proved unavailable and had to be replaced with 1924 WAMPAS Baby Star Alberta Vaughn, an actress whose career was all but over. Randy Rides Alone did little to alter that fact but the film remains a minor classic of the genre. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Rainbow Valley
A young John Wayne is charged with building a road into the title valley in this routine Western from Monogram. The building project, however, is constantly interrupted by LeRoy Mason and his gang who wants the valley in general and its rich mines in particular free from outside interference. Wayne, who is aided in his quest by grizzled old mail carrier George Hayes (who had yet to earn his famous nickname of "Gabby"), manages not only to build the road but also capture the nasty Mason, a rival for the affections of bleach blonde postmistress Lucile Browne, and his cohort, paroled convict Buffalo Bill Jr. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Young Land
Although it revolves around a crucial issue in the history of California, this subpar drama misses its targets somehow. The time is 1848 in California when an American justice system has to try Californians who are either Mexican in culture and speech and heritage, or not. Hatfield Carnes (Dennis Hopper) is a sorry example of the "not" side of the equation, and he is on trial for murdering a Mexican. The Mexican-Americans who back California's U.S. government are anxious to see if American justice is racially and ethnically blind. In the meantime, there is a romance or two to divert attention as Hatfield's accusers get ready for the trial. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi

The Proud and the Damned
Will (Chuck Connors) leads a group of American Civil War veterans into San Carlos, Columbia. The local mayor (Cesar Romero) welcomes the quintet, unaware they are scouting out the town for Columbian General Martinez (Andre Maruis). Soon the visitors are reveling with gypsies Mila (Anita Quinn) and Ramon (Jose Greco). Will and Mila end up making love, much to the dismay of the jealous Ramon. Will shoots and kills the hotheaded Ramon, and the mayor is called on to restore order. The five Americans are held for questioning following the murder. When the scouts fail to return to the General, the storm clouds of war gather over the once-peaceful town. Mila becomes ostracized by the townsfolk for her brazen behavior that resulted in Ramon's death. The mayor considers letting Will and Mila leave town in an effort to avoid further bloodshed. ~ Dan Pavlides, Rovi

The Proud Rebel
A gentler but no less resourceful Alan Ladd stars in The Proud Rebel. Ladd is cast as civil war veteran John Chandler, while the star's son David (who grew up to become a powerful Hollywood producer) plays Chandler's emotionally disturbed son David. Since suffering a traumatic shock during the war, David has not spoken a single word. With his son in tow, John wanders the frontier in search of a doctor who might cure David's muteness. Along the way, he runs afoul of sheep baron Harry Burleigh (Dean Jagger), and for a brief period is forced into indentured servitude to pay a debt to farm woman Linnet Moore (Olivia de Havilland). Falling in love with Linnet, John vows to protect her land from the covetous machinations of Burleigh and his brood. It is during the climactic set-to between good guys and bad that David at long last finds his voice again. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Lights of Old Santa Fe
Roy Rogers saves Dale Evans from being hoodwinked by a rodeo competitor in this pleasant, and pleasantly tuneful, B-Western from Republic Pictures. Due to the mismanagement of old-timer Gabby Whittaker (George "Gabby" Hayes), The Brooks Rodeo is about to be gobbled up by competitor Frank Madden (Richard Powers aka Tom Keene), who also has designs on pretty owner Marjorie Brooks (Evans) herself. But when Gabby hires Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers as the new headliners, Madden and his henchman Ken Ferguson (Roy Barcroft) are forced to commit a bit of sabotage. With the aid of Trigger, "The Smartest Horse in the Movies," and radio announcer Marty Maizely (Lloyd Corrigan), Roy and Gabby manage to the goods on Ferguson and prevent Marjorie from marrying the sleazy Madden. Featuring early silent screen star Claire Du Brey as Dale Evans' faithful housekeeper, Lights of Old Santa Fe also presents such pleasant musical divertissements as Jack Elliott's title tune, Tim Spencer's "Trigger Hasn't Got a Pretty Figger", "I'm a Happy Guy in My Levi's Britches" and "Cowpoke Polka", and Ricardo Lopez Mendez' "Amor". The latter is performed by Dale Evans in both English and Spanish versions. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Pioneer Woman
Though set in Wyoming, Pioneer Women was lensed in the unspoiled wilderness of Alberta, Canada. Joanna Pettet plays the title role, one of many Wyoming homesteaders of the post-Civil War era. Joanna endures the death of her husband (William Shatner), then must decide whether or not to make a go of her new home with only the help of her children. The supporting cast is dotted with past and future TV series stars: The Fugitive's David Janssen, Werewolf's Lance LeGault, and Mad About You's Helen Hunt, here cast as Pettet's 10-year-old daughter. Made for television, Pioneer Woman first aired December 19, 1973. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Beyond the Law
Unlike Clint Eastwood, who in the 1960s was cast as the Man With No Name, Beyond the Law star Lee Van Cleef has a name, and a very functional one. Van Cleef is known to one and all as Bandit Turned Sheriff. Actually, a more appropriate cognomen would be Bandit Turned Sheriff But Still a Bandit, since Van Cleef only pretends to reform so that he can steal a cavalry payroll. Since it's hard to watch Beyond the Law with a straight face to begin with, the producers wisely decided to turn this spaghetti western into a semi-comedy. Released in Italy in 1967 as Al Di La Della Legge, Beyond the Law was distributed in the US in 1971. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Professionisti per un Massacro
King of the Cowboys
The budget for this fine Roy Rogers Western was doubled and the title changed from Starlight on the Trail to the more descriptive King of the Cowboys, mainly due to Rogers' great reception on a personal appearance tour in the fall of 1942. Republic had lost Gene Autry to the war effort and this film, more than any other, brought the heretofore also-ran singing cowboy to the forefront, where he remained through the early '50s. Following the example of Autry, Roy played himself, a rodeo star assigned by the governor, Russell Hicks, to investigate a series of warehouse bombings. With sidekick Frog Millhouse (Smiley Burnette) in tow, Roy infiltrates the Merry Makers, a touring tent show whose phony mind reader, Maurice (Gerald Mohr), is the chief operative for a sabotage ring run by the governor's secretary, Kraly (Lloyd Corrigan). But Maurice catches Roy stealing his book of codes and is about to shoot him in cold blood when tent show owner Dave Mason (James Bush) interferes. Maurice then eliminates Mason and frames Roy for the killing but despite this setback, Roy manages to stop the saboteurs before they can blow up a supply train needed in the war effort. An "everything but the kitchen sink" action-thriller, King of the Cowboys came complete with seven songs performed by Rogers, Burnette, and the Sons of the Pioneers, including "Ride, Ranger, Ride," "Roll Along Prairie Moon," and Johnny Mercer's "I'm an Old Cowhand." The film was restored to its full theatrical length by the Roan Group in the late '90s and re-released on a DVD that also features the original theatrical trailer and alternate scenes from a separate version released only to the War Department. In these scenes, Lloyd Corrigan's character is a businessman rather than the governor's secretary, and his Nazi affiliation is more clearly established. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

A Professional Gun
This spaghetti western finds a despotic mine owner (Eduardo Fajardo) the target for revenge by the idealistic patriot Eufemio (Tony Musante). He hires Bill Douglas (Franco Nero) to incite a revolution that will oust the government and the greedy miner. Douglas agrees as long as his creature comforts are insured during the crossing of the unforgiving desert. Ricciolo (Jack Palance) is the mercenary working for the side of the mineowner. Ennio Morricone provides the music for this violent and humorous film. ~ Dan Pavlides, Rovi

Il ritorno di Clint il solitario
The Star Packer
Definitely the most expensive-looking of John Wayne's "Lone Star" westerns, The Star Packer casts "the Duke" as U.S. marshal John Travers. Hoping to flush out a mysterious outlaw chieftain known only as "The Shadow," Travers becomes sheriff of a town where several unsolved murders have occurred. Accompanied by his Indian pal Yak (Yakima Canutt), our hero explores a tunnel leading from the sheriff's office to the outlaws' cave hideout. He manages to ascertain the identity of The Shadow, but first he must rescue heroine Anita (Verna Hillie) from the villain's clutches. As much a horror melodrama as a straightforward western, The Star Packer benefits from the casting of Lone Star "regulars" George (Gabby) Hayes and Yakima Canutt in highly uncharacteristic roles. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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