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John Wayne: Riding the Trail/Riding the Range [2 Discs] [DVD]
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Overview

Special Features

  • Closed Captioned

Synopsis

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

Two-Fisted Law
Penned by prolific pulp writer William Colt MacDonald, this Tim McCoy Columbia Western may have been the forerunner of McDonald's later so popular The Three Mesqueteers. John Wayne, whose character is named, appropriately, Duke, and Wallace MacDonald (no relation to William Colt) play McCoy's loyal ranch hands, and although they remain in the background for part of the action, the germ of the triad hero is there. Tim plays a rancher losing his property to a crooked money-lender turned cattle rustler (Wheeler Oakman). The dastardly villain is in league with a sheriff's deputy (Walter Brennan) and together they rob the Wells Fargo. There is a final shootout and the dying deputy confesses to both the Wells Fargo heist and to the fact that Tim's ranch was illegally obtained. Wayne, who didn't get along with McCoy and had several rows with studio czar Harry Cohn, swore that he would never again work for Columbia, a promise he kept. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Riders of Destiny
In the first of his 16 Westerns for Monogram, John Wayne plays Singin' Sandy Saunders, a drifter who witnesses what he at first believes to be a stage robbery. In reality, the "road agent" is a girl, Fay Denton (Cecilia Parker), and she is "stealing" her own money in order to prevent a phony stage holdup further down the road. As Fay's father, Charlie "Dad" Denton (George Hayes), explains, the culprit behind a rash of pretend stage holdups committed by two bumbling drivers (Al St. John and Heinie Conklin) is James Kincaid (Forrest Taylor), who is also forcing the local farmers off their lands by demanding an outrageous price for his water. When Sandy appears on the horizon, Kincaid engages a notorious gunman, Slip Morgan (Earl Dwire), but Sandy disarms the bandit for good by shooting him through both wrists. Much to Fay's disgust, Kincaid quickly hires the newcomer, now known as "the most notorious outlaw since Billy the Kid," and Saunders suggests that they dynamite Dad Denton's well, the only other available source of water in the area. It is all a ruse, of course, and Sandy soon reveals himself to be a government agent in disguise. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Desert Trail
John Wayne's easy-going charm truly began to manifest itself in this, one of his later "Lone Star" Westerns for Monogram. Falsely accused of killing the paymaster (Henry Hall) of the Rattlesnake Gulch rodeo, John Scott (Wayne) and his girl-chasing partner Kansas Charlie (Eddy Chandler) trail the real killer, Pete (Al Ferguson), and his unwilling underling Jim (Paul Fix) to Poker City. Jim wants to go straight, but Pete blackmails him into robbing the stagecoach. John and Kansas, who are known in town as Jones and the Reverend Smith, are once again accused of the crime, but Jim helps them escape from jail. When the young bandit refuses to commit bank robbery, Pete shoots him in cold blood. The villain is caught by John and Kansas, whom Jim has cleared of all crimes on his deathbed. Besides one of Wayne's better early performances, The Desert Trail -- whose title bears no close scrutiny -- also benefitted from the presence of Frank Capra-regular Eddy Chandler, a rotund comic actor whose sparring here with Wayne is first-rate all the way. Paul Fix is equally good as the outlaw with a conscience and Mary Kornman, of Our Gang fame, is tolerable as the obligatory heroine. The Desert Trail was directed with easy assurance by the veteran Lewis D. Collins, who for some reason billed himself "Cullin Lewis." ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

West of the Divide
Assigned to write and direct the John Wayne western West of the Divide, Robert N. Bradbury dug out the plotline he'd used so often and to such good effect in his son Bob Steele's vehicles. Wayne plays frontiersman Ted Hayden, who spends most of the picture searching for the man who killed his parents. Along the way, he "tames" spoiled heroine Fay Winter (Virginia Brown Faire) and rediscovers his long-lost brother Spud (Billy O'Brien). John Wayne's fistfights with chief heavy Yakima Canutt aren't in the same league as his later Canutt-supervised stunt sequences, but they're pretty good by their own standards. West of the Divide was the fourth entry in Wayne's "Lone Star" series. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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