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John Wayne Collection, Vol. 1 [2 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

The Lawless Frontier
Earl Dwire supplies a deliciously ripe performance as a half-breed outlaw in this early John Wayne Western from Monogram. After killing John's father, Zanti (Dwire) attempts to abduct pretty Ruby (Sheila Terry), but the girl is saved in the nick of time by John. Unfortunately, the bumbling sheriff (Jack Rockwell) not only mistakes John for one of Zanti's outlaws, but also accuses him of killing Ruby's grandfather, Dusty (George Hayes). The latter, however, is still very much alive and John tracks Zanti into the desert where the outlaw perishes after drinking poisoned water. With the boss villain dead, John goes after the entire gang who is eventually trapped in Dusty's mine. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Sagebrush Trail
So unknown was John Wayne in 1934 that the Variety review of the "B"-western Sagebrush Trail fails to list Wayne in the cast! The second of the Duke's films for Lone Star Productions, this one casts him as an accused killer in search of the real culprit. On the lam from the law, Wayne teams up with gunslinger Lane Chandler, never suspecting that Chandler is the man he is looking for. The relationship between Wayne and Chandler, at first friendly and then adversarial, is handled with more depth than was normal in a quickie western. Also in the cast of Sagebrush Trail is stuntman Yakima Canutt, here cast as Wayne's Indian companion "Yak." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Winds of the Wasteland
Former pony express riders John Blair (John Wayne) and Larry Adams (Lane Chandler) don't buy the Brooklyn Bridge in this Republic Western, but the two greenhorns instead purchase a dilapidated stage line to a ghost town. While the unscrupulous seller, "Honest Cal" Drake (Douglas Cosgrove), count his loot, John and Larry learn that Crescent City is inhabited by Rocky (Lew Kelly), who claims to be mayor, postmaster, and sheriff, and Dr. William Forsythe (Sam Flint), a fellow victim of the duplicitous Drake. But despite its current condition, Crescent City has rich potential, especially if the newcomers can obtain a $25,000 government mail subsidy, the winner of which will be determined by a stagecoach race between nearby Buchanan City and Sacramento. Winds of the Wasteland was filmed on location in the Sierra Mountains and in the Sacramento Valley. Watch for future Universal star Jon Hall as one of John Wayne's pony express colleagues. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, 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

The Dawn Rider
An average entry in the otherwise above-average Monogram/"Lone Star" Western series starring John Wayne, this film is noteworthy for containing one of the last screen appearances of Joseph De Grasse, a major silent screen actor-director, who -- with his screenwriter wife Ida May Park -- created scores of well-received Universal melodramas in the 1910s. De Grasse appears all too briefly here as Wayne's father, murdered during a robbery of his express office. Wayne, playing John Mason, chases after the killer, an outlaw whose face is hidden behind a polka dot neckerchief. Mason is injured during the chase and brought to the home of Alice Gordon (Marion Burns) by newfound friend Ben McClure (Reed Howes). Nursed back to health by Alice, with whom he is falling in love, Mason sets a trap for the killer and his gang by announcing that he is guarding a valuable gold shipment. The killer is revealed to be Rudd, Alice's brother (Dennis Moore, here billed "Denny Meadow"), whom John challenges to a duel. Feeling betrayed by Mason's love for Alice, Ben secretly substitutes the bullets in his former friend's gun with blanks. Persuaded by Alice that John has done nothing untoward, a repentant Ben arrives just in time to save his friend from certain death but is himself felled by a bullet fired by villainous barkeep Yakima Canutt in a final, well-staged, shootout. What there is of comic relief in this rather dour Western is provided by gangly Nelson McDowell, an actor seemingly born to portray comic undertakers, which is exactly what he plays here. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Blue Steel
John Wayne once again goes undercover to catch a wanted outlaw in this average entry in his 1934-1935 Western series for Monogram Pictures. Wayne plays John Carruthers, a U.S. marshal, and his quarry is the Polka Dot Bandit, aka Danti (Yakima Canutt), who has taken off with a 4,000-dollar pay roll. As John soon learns, Danti is in the employ of Malgrove (Edward Peil Sr.), a supposedly upstanding citizen who is secretly trying to starve the good people of Yucca City. Unbeknownst to the townsfolk, a valuable ore runs right through the area and Malgrove is plotting to buy the land on the cheap. Blue Steel was produced at Hollywood's General Service Studios with exteriors filmed at Big Pine, CA. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Trail Beyond
Loosely based on a story by pulp writer James Oliver Curwood, this Lone Star Western released by Monogram starred a young John Wayne helping an old family friend (James Marcus) find his long-lost brother and niece. Traveling by train to the Canadian Northwest, Rod Drew (Wayne) is reacquainted with old school chum Wabi (Noah Beery Jr.), a "half-breed" falsely accused of shooting a card shark. Escaping the law, the two friends find their way to Wabinosh General Store, whose gregarious owner, Newsome (Noah Beery), is in possession of a map leading to the whereabouts of the missing Ball family and a fortune in gold. A nefarious French trapper, LaRocque (Robert Frazer), is also interested in the map but Drew and Wabi beat him to the location of John Ball's abandoned cabin. Ball himself is long dead but a portrait proves that his daughter is none other than Felice (Verna Hillie), the adopted daughter of the general store owner. Felice and Rod have fallen in love, however, and after delivering the villains to the mounted police, they leave the Northwest together. A remake of the silent The Wolf Hunters (1926), The Trail Beyond was filmed at majestic Kings Canyon National Park in central California and includes several impressive stunts performed by Yakima Canutt and Eddie Parker. (One stunt that failed -- a transfer from horse to wagon -- was left in the film, adding a rare touch of realism to the proceedings.) The beautifully restored version of the film comes complete with a new background score, a nuisance to purists, perhaps, but a welcome addition for the more casual viewer. A colorized version is also available. Monogram filmed the story a third time, as The Wolf Hunters (1949) and starring Kirby Grant. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Paradise Canyon
Paradise Canyon is one of the most action-packed entries in John Wayne's "Lone Star" series. On the trail of a counterfeiting gang, undercover agent John Wyatt (Wayne) joins the traveling medicine show of Doc Carter (Earl Hodgins). For a while, it looks as though Doc is the leader of the gang, but when he and his daughter, Linda (Marion Burns), are kidnapped by the real villain, Wyatt realizes he's been riding the wrong trail. The last-minute rescue is almost as thrilling as the earlier scene in which Wyatt takes a high dive off a steep cliff into a river. Ace stuntmen Reed Howes and Yakima Canutt are prominent among the supporting players. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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

The Man From Utah
After helping prevent a bank robbery, young drifter John Weston (John Wayne) is assigned by Marshal Higgins (George "Gabby" Hayes to look into a series of suspicious deaths among champion rodeo riders. Weston falls for lovely Marjorie Carter (Polly Ann Young) along the way but she gets jealous when he suddenly shifts his attention to fiery Dolores (Anita Campillo, whose name is misspelled "Compillo" in the onscreen credits). The Mexican charmer, however, is in league with Spike Barton (Edward Peil, Sr.), the brain behind the murders, and Weston's interest is purely business. Like most of John Wayne's "Lone Star" Westerns, The Man from Utah was filmed along California's Kern River. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

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