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John Wayne: The Great American Western [2 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Special Features

  • Interactive menus
  • Scene index
  • Digitally mastered

Synopsis

Texas Terror
With a 45-minute running time, or thereabouts, Texas Terror was John Wayne's shortest Lone Star/Monogram Western and far from his best. Believing has accidentally killed his best friend (Frank Ball), the sheriff (Wayne) hands over his badge to George "Gabby" Hayes and retreats to the high country. En route to take over her murdered father's ranch, Beth Matthews (Lucille Browne) is witness to a stage robbery (a typical modern Western, the "stage" in Texas Terror is a Ford T touring car). An unshaven, dirty-looking Wayne comes to her rescue, but she thinks he is part of the gang. Vaguely recognizing his voice but nothing else, Beth later hires the now cleaned-up former sheriff as her new foreman and they quickly fall in love. But during a dance, Joe Dickson (LeRoy Mason), the incognito leader of the stage robbers, informs the girl that Wayne is the man thought to have killed her father. Wayne soon learns of Dickson's own culpability in the killing and summons an entire tribe of Indians to help capture him. The typical Hollywood Indians in this film all speak in broken English, Chief Black Eagle actually saying "Ugh!" on one occasion, an incongruous moment in a Western where the heroine arrives in an automobile. Intentional comedy relief is provided by Fern Emmett, a sort of poor man's Margaret Hamilton, and veteran slapstick comedian Jack Duffy, both of whom engage in a supposedly hilarious milking contest. The climactic chase sequence is rather heavily padded with stock footage from the silent era and Yakima Canutt is spotted quite clearly doubling for Wayne. As always, veteran director Robert North Bradbury has a great eye for composition (the film seems to have been shot on locations in the Sierras), but his handling of actors leaves much to be desired. Tight-lipped LeRoy Mason delivers Texas Terror's only solid performance as the villain. ~ 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

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

Shadow of the Eagle [Serial]
Mascot produced their serials fast and furious with little concern for believability, acting prowess, or technical niceties. Shadow of the Eagle is neither the best nor worst of the bunch, but rather typical of the company's hit-and-miss methods. The acting is occasionally downright embarrassing -- and that includes a very young John Wayne in the starring role -- but the fisticuffs are fast and plentiful, and the plot, such as it is, moves forward at a fast clip. The Mascot writers once again turn to trickery in order to conceal the identity of the mystery villain -- including having a different actor providing a voice-over -- but that is just par for the serial course. Comedy is provided by the carnival performers, but it quickly becomes grating, especially a running joke which has the circus midget (Little Billy) constantly mistaken for a child by the typically bone-headed cops, whom the circus performer refers to as "flatfooted palookas." ~ 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

His Private Secretary
A very young John Wayne is atypically cast as a randy playboy in His Private Secretary. Much to the dismay of his businessman father, Dick Wallace (Wayne) prefers a life of wine, women and more women to honest work. The elder Wallace demands that Dick take a job as his company's collection manager, and it is in this capacity that our hero heads to the small town of Somerville to collect a debt. Here he meets pretty Marion (Evelyn Knapp), the granddaughter of the man from whom Dick must extract overdue payments. Immediately putting the moves on Marion, Dick is rebuffed with a slap and several harsh words -- and for the first time in his life, the prodigal son is really in love! Inevitably, Marion ends up working as a secretary for Dick's dad, driving the poor boy crazy in his efforts to make up for his previous boorish behavior. Excerpts from His Private Secretary have frequently shown up in TV documentaries about John Wayne, as "proof" of his inability to act in his pre-John Ford years. ~ Hal Erickson, 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

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

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

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