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Western Classics: 50 Movie Pack [12 Discs] [DVD]

  • SKU: 6681968
  • Release Date: 05/25/2004
  • Rating: R
  • 4.0 (1)
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Overview

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Synopsis

Il Grande Duello
Il Grande Duello is the original title of this Italian/French/West German production. The titular duel pits hard-bitten gunslinger Clayton (Lee Van Cleef) against the equally gritty Saxon (Horst Frank). Before this takes place, however, Clayton champions the cause of Newland (Peter O'Brien) a young punk who'd been framed on a murder charge. One of the beauties of the spaghetti western genre is that there were seldom any clearly defined Good or Bad Guys. This helped to keep the audience guessing as to the ultimate outcome of the film, thereby increasing the entertainment value tenfold. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Colorado
Brothers end up on opposite sides of the law in this Western set during the Civil War. Posing as a Union officer, Don Mason, aka Don Burke (Milburn Stone), attempts to divert the Union troops from the struggle with the Confederacy by arming the Colorado Indian tribes. Unbeknownst to Don, however, his younger brother Jerry (Roy Rogers) is assigned by President Lincoln to investigate the uprisings in the territory and the youngster arrives just as Don is preparing to marry Lylah Sanford (Pauline Moore). With the aid of grizzled sidekick Gabby (George "Gabby" Hayes), Roy manages to disarm the crooked Indian commissioner (Arthur Loft) but Don slips away with Lylah as his hostage. Roy is wounded in the ensuing shootout and is nursed back to health by Lylah, with whom he has fallen in love. There is the inevitable showdown between the brothers but rather than face the hangman, Don makes a daring escape and is shot and killed by Sheriff Harkins (Fred Burns). ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

American Empire
Originally slated for release through Paramount Pictures but ultimately distributed by United Artists, American Empire is a western "special" from Hopalong Cassidy producer Harry "Pop" Sherman. Set during the Reconstruction period, the film stars Richard Dix and Preston S. Foster as Dan Taylor and Paxton Bryce, two longtime friends seeking their fortune in postwar Texas. With the considerable assistance of Dan's sister and Paxton's wife Abby (Frances Gifford), the two comrades establish a thriving cattle business. Alas, Paxton is seized with the ambition to become a emperor in his own domain, thereby alienating himself from Dan and Abby. Only through a profound personal tragedy does Paxton come back to his senses. Ironically, critics in 1942 suggested that the Mexican accent adopted by supporting player Leo Carrillo was more than a little reminiscent of "The Cisco Kid" -- and this was still several years before Carrillo was established as Pancho in the "Cisco" "B"-film and TV series! ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Springtime in the Rockies
Gene Autry and veteran Western director Jospeh Kane team up for this lightweight effort. Gene (Gene Autry) is the foreman of a ranch which has just been put under new ownership, though he soon has his doubts about his new boss -- Sandra Knight (Polly Rowles), a pretty young woman with a college degree in animal husbandry but little practical experience of life on the range. When Sandra decides to raise sheep instead of cattle, it doesn't settle with the neighboring ranchers, and Gene is forced to make peace with both factions. As usual, Springtime In The Rockies features a handful of songs from Autry, with Jimmy LeFuer and his Saddle Pals providing accompaniment. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Rollin' Plains
Filmed after the star and his producer already had signed a new deal with rival company Monogram, this Grand National Tex Ritter Western slashed the usual parsimonious budget even further by recycling the entire final reel of Ritter's previous Sing, Cowboy, Sing. Filmed back-to-back with Utah Trail, Ritter's final Grand National Western, Rollin' Plains once again burdened the star with perhaps the worst comic sidekicks available at the time, Horace Murphy and Snub Pollard, the latter still sporting the paint-on mustache he had used since the silent days at Keystone. The three played rangers coming to the assistance of Gospel Moody (silent screen star Hobart Bosworth), a cattle rancher in trouble with an ornery sheepman, Trigger Gargan (Charles King). Soon, Gospel is accused of killing old Hank Tomlin (Horace B. Carpenter), an act actually committed by his half-brother Cain (Ernie S. Adams). With Tex's help, Moody stages his own "death," only to come back as a "ghost." Accompanied by a group calling themselves The Beverly Hill Billies, Ritter performed Rollin' Plains by Whitcup, Samuels and Powell, Me, My Pal and My Pony by Frank Harford, and Rock of Ages by Augustus Montague Toplady and Thomas Hastings. Hank Worden, a friend of Ritter's from his days on Broadway, appeared in a bit part, still billed under his real name, Heber Snow. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Mystery of the Hooded Horseman
Based on the notorious Black Legion which had created quite a turmoil in Michigan a few years earlier, screenwriter Edmund Kelso and director Al Taylor crafted one of the better Tex Ritter musical Westerns. Filmed on location at Kernville, California, The Mystery of the Hooded Horsemen was made almost serial-style, except that this time the villains wore the masks instead of the hero. A gang of hooded riders is terrorizing the local ranchers and even shoots kindly old Tom Wilson (Lafe McKee) in cold blood. Before he expires, Tom begs Tex Martin (Ritter) and his sidekick Stubby (Horace Murphy) to help his partner, Farley (Joseph W. Girard), save their mine. The supposed leader of the riders, Blackie (Charles King), gets Tex in hot water with the sheriff (Earl Dwire) but assisted by old Tom Wilson's pretty daughter Nancy (Iris Meredith), the singing cowboy nevertheless manages not only to bring Blackie to justice but also reveal the identity of the real brain behind the terror. The Mystery of the Hooded Horsemen proved the first Ritter Western to open on Broadway in New York City and the sometimes overbearing critic from the New York Times, John T. McManus, was charmed enough to term it "refreshing." ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Sing, Cowboy, Sing
Singing cowboy Tex Ritter once again battled the ornery Charles King in this average music Western from poverty row company Grand National. The usually so jovial Robert McKenzie joined King this time, playing mean Judge Roy Dean and conspiring to take over the Summer's Freight Line. Passing cowboys Tex Archer (Ritter, who warbles the title-tune and his own Goodbye Old Paint) and Duke Evans (Al St. John) happen upon the dead body of George Summers (Jack C. Smith) and decide to take up the fight against the crooked judge. They are briefly jailed but escape in time to save Madge Summers (Louise Stanley) and bring the villains to justice. A big fan of silent slapstick comics, Ritter constantly badgered his producer, Edward F. Finney, to hire former Keystone Kops and in addition to St. John, Sing Cowboy, Sing also featured Snub Pollard and Chester Conklin. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Man of the Frontier
Singing cowboy Gene Autry stars in this formula western as Gene Autry (so far, so good), who teams up with his buddy Frog Millhouse (Smiley Burnette) to investigate a series of accidents which have stopped construction of a dam being constructed by Sam Flint (George Baxter) and claimed the lives of much of the work crew. The progress of the damn is also thwarted when Bull Dural (George Cheseboro) and his gang attempt to steal the payroll; Gene and Frog suspect Bull may also be behind the deadly dirty tricks campaign before discovering he's just a pawn in a bigger game. Autry finds time to sing five tunes during the proceedings, inclusing the classic title song. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

China 9, Liberty 37
China 9, Liberty 37 falls halfway between the Hollywood backlot-western school and the Italian "spaghetti" western genre, borrowing the best elements from both. Fabio Testi plays a gunfighter who is saved at the last moment from a hangman's noose. His liberators are a cartel of railroad men who want Testi to kill farmer (and former hired gun) Warren Oates, who has refused all entreaties to sell his land. As part of the scheme, Testi befriends Oates; on his own volition, he sleeps with Oates' wife Jenny Agutter. When the railroad barons insist that Testi go through with his mission, he refuses, and helps the farmer fight off the train moguls' hired thugs. Also known as Gunfire, China 9 Liberty 37 features a cameo by director Monte Hellman's role model, Sam Peckinpah, who plays a bombastic Ned Buntline-style novelist. And the significance of the title? It's the location of Warren Oates' spread: Nine miles from the town of China, 37 miles from the town of Liberty. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Billy the Kid Trapped
Here's another entry in PRC's long-running "Billy the Kid" series, again starring Buster Crabbe as Billy Carson and Al St. John as his comic sidekick Fuzzy Q. Jones. In this outing, a bandit posing as Billy manages to pin several crimes on Our Hero. Cleverly eluding the law (never mind the film's title), Billy endeavors to track down his impostor and put him behind bars. The plot is resolved by a typical PRC fistfight, which as usual is more energetic than expert. Young Anne Jeffreys, a starlet on the threshold of bigger things, is definitely an improvement over the standard western ingenue. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

En el Oeste Se Puede Hacer... Amigo
Italian action hero Bud Spencer stars in Maurizio Lucidi's comedy Western The Big and the Bad. While wandering through the West (which looks a lot like Spain), Spencer becomes intimate with the gorgeous Dany Saval -- discovering, all too late, that she is the younger sister of vengeful gunslinger Jack Palance. ~ Hal Erickson, 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 Cowboy and the Senorita
Yet another tuneful Roy Rogers Western named after a song, The Cowboy and the Senorita features Roy and sidekick Teddy Bear (Guinn "Big Boy" Williams) as a couple of would-be prospectors fired from a small town café when the latter gets in trouble with an irate customer (rotund Ferdinand Munier). At the nearby town of Bonanza, the two friends find themselves falsely accused of kidnapping young Chip Williams (Mary Lee), who is actually a runaway. Having befriended both her girl and her half-sister Isabel Martinez (Dale Evans), Roy and Teddy Bear manage to solve the riddle of a treasure hidden in a supposedly worthless mine despite the sabotaging efforts of smooth tycoon Craig Allen (John Hubbard). In between the Western shenanigans, Rogers joins Lee, Evans, the Sons of the Pioneers, and such guest artists as the dance team of Jane Beebe and Ben Rochelle in no less than five musical numbers, including the title tune and a delightful rendition of Ned Washington and Phil Ohman's "What'll I Use for Money." Spanky McFarland, of Our Gang fame, has a funny silent bit in the opening scene. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Oklahoma Cyclone
Disguising himself as a bandit, diminutive cowboy star Bob Steele infiltrates the gang who abducted his father, the sheriff. The second of eight Steele Westerns produced by Trem Carr for Tiffany release, this minor Western included three songs crooned by a star not necessarily known for any great vocal abilities. With non-vocalists like Steele and fellow Tiffany star Ken Maynard constantly warbling by the camp fire, it is a wonder that their Westerns remained the floundering company's only real moneymakers. The singing cowboy vogue had come to an end by 1931 and (thankfully, some say) was not revived until the emergence in the mid-'30s of radio crooner Gene Autry. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Hell Town
Paramount borrowed John Wayne from Republic Pictures for the studio's second screen version of Zane Grey's Born to the West, which was also the Western's original release title. A couple of drifters, Dare Rudd (Wayne) and Dinkie Hooley (Sid Saylor), arrive in a Wyoming town hoping for a handout from Dare's rancher cousin, Tom Fillmore (Johnny Mack Brown). Dare takes but one look at Tom's girlfriend, Judy Worstall (Marsha Hunt), and decides to stay in town. He obtains the job of chuck wagon cook, but Judy, who is falling for the charming newcomer, convinces Tom to give Dare a job with more responsibilities. To get rid of a potential rival and to prove Dare's irresponsibility once and for all, Tom assigns his cousin the job of selling the herd. Unbeknownst to either Tom or Dare, however, saloon owner Bart Hammond (Monte Blue) also has his greedy eye on the herd and sets a trap for Dare. Hell Town used quite a bit of stock footage from the original silent version, Born to the West, which had starred Jack Holt. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Mohawk
Though released by 20th Century-Fox, Mohawk was produced independently by Edward L. Alperson, who also doubled as the film's musical composer. Scott Brady stars as an 18th century Boston artist, sent to Mohawk Valley to paint landscapes and portraits of Native Americans. Brady is forced to pack up his easel when he becomes embroiled in a war between the Indians and avaricious land baron John Hoyt. The villain intends to play both ends against the middle, then claim what's left when the Mohawks and settlers wipe each other out. Brady not only defies Hoyt, but also battles near-psychotic Mohawk warrior Neville Brand. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Riders of the Whistling Pines
Gene Autry's second 1949 release for Columbia was Riders of the Whistling Pines. As was customary for Autry, the title refers to one of the songs heard in the film, rather than the plotline at hand. The villains busy themselves destroying all the timber in a government forest preserve. When Autry steps in to stop the bad guys, they cook up a frame by accusing him of poisoning cattle. Jimmy Lloyd co-stars as an aviator who figures prominently in the action-packed finale. Autry's leading lady this time out is Patricia White, who later gained prominence on TV as Patricia Barry. At 72 minutes, Riders of the Whistling Pines was one of the longest of Autry's Columbia efforts. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Sundowners
Filmed in a two-tone process called Cinecolor, The Sundowners is a compact little western making good use of an old Hollywood chestnut. Robert Preston and Robert Sterling play two brothers who find themselves on opposite sides of the legal fence. Since Sterling rather than Preston has the mustache this time, Sterling's the bad guy. Caught in the crossfire is Preston's son, who is menaced by Sterling. This 1950 version should not be confused with the 1960 Warners film of the same name, which is set on an Australian sheep ranch. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

My Pal Trigger
This gentle, tuneful western is one of cowboy crooner Roy Rogers' best and most successful films; it is also his personal favorite. The fanciful tale tells how Rogers obtained his magnificent horse Trigger and begins with horse trader Rogers as he prepares to breed his best mare with his best friend's glorious Palomino stallion. Trouble comes in the form of a villainous gambler who has similar plans for his own mare. He attempts to rustle the stud, but the attempt fails, the stallion escapes and breeds with Roger's mare. Angrily, the gambler shows up and shoots the beautiful horse, leaving Rogers to shoulder the blame. Fortunately, Roy and his impregnated mare flee. Later she gives birth to Trigger who helps Rogers get revenge after he grows up. ~ Sandra Brennan, 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

Sheriff of Tombstone
In this western, Rogers and his sidekick Gabby get into all kinds of trouble when they ride into Tombstone and find themselves mistaken for the hired gun and his assistant. The gunslinger was engaged to work for the mayor and for a time Rogers goes along with it. When he discovers that the mayor is a bonafide crook, the "gunslinger" becomes the new sheriff. When the real gunman finally moseys into town, a showdown ensues. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

McLintock!
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

Judge Priest
Will Rogers stars as Judge William "Billy" Priest, the common-sense Kentucky jurist created by humorist Irvin S. Cobb. The Judge's easygoing manner bothers many of the self-righteous good citizens of his small 19th-century hometown, imperiling his chances for re-election. The anecdotal plot boils down to a single storyline involving orphaned Anita Louise, reclusive David Landau (secretly Louise's father), and young attorney Tom Brown.The testimony that saves Landau from a murder charge is delivered by Civil War veteran H.B. Walthall, whose stirring loyalty to the Confederacy inspires everyone in town to organize an impromptu parade! Some of the best scenes are highlighted by Will Rogers' affectionate rapport with stereotyped black-actors Stepin Fetchit and Hattie McDaniel, though these scenes are frequently removed from TV showings of Judge Priest due to their undeniably racist overtones. If you haven't guessed by the first frame of the film that John Ford was the director, you'll recognize Ford's personal stamp the moment Will Rogers kneels by his wife's grave and carries on a warm conversation with his long-departed bride. Ford would remake (and improve upon) Judge Priest in 1953 as The Sun Shines Bright, with Charles Winninger as the judge. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Song of the Gringo
Written by John P. McCarthy (who also directed), Robert Emmett Tansey, and, rather incongruously, former real-life outlaw Al Jennings, this musical Western marked the screen debut of Tex Ritter, a former Broadway and radio crooner. Ritter played Tex (of course), a lawman going undercover as a bandit in order to infiltrate a gang of claim jumpers. As it turns out, the leader of the gang, Evans (Ted Adams), is using the ranch of Don Esteban del Valle (Martin Garralaga) and his daughter, Dolores (Joan Woodbury), as his headquarters, dragging the innocent rancher into a scheme to take over the local mines by any means possible, including murder. In between his detective work, Ritter finds time to sing such song as "Out on the Lone Prairie," "My Sweet Chiquita," and "You Are Reality," the latter composed by leading lady Joan Woodbury, the wife of actor Henry Wilcoxon. Ritter was discovered for films by Edward F. Finney, the former promotional director for Republic Pictures, who released the Ritter series through newcomer Grand National. Despite the crowd-pleasing presence of comic sidekick Fuzzy Knight and Ritter's horse, White Flash, Song of the Gringo proved an inauspicious opener. According to Ritter himself, Finney had his star outfitted with a hideous-looking toupee; and director John P. McCarthy, a holdover from the silent era, proved an unwise choice as well. Both hairpiece and McCarthy were gone by the second instalment, Headin' for the Rio Grande (1936), replaced by Ritter's natural receeding hairline and Robert North Bradbury, yet another veteran but at least one with an eye for pacing. Ritter, who achieved perhaps his lasting fame singing "Do Not Forsake Me" over the main titles to Fred Zinneman's High Noon (1952), was the father of 1970s television star John Ritter. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Young Bill Hickok
This Roy Rogers vehicle is a followup (though not a sequel) to 1940's Young Buffalo Bill. Definitely a "premature anti-fascist", singing frontiersman Bill Hickok (Roy Rogers) tries to thwart the takeover of West by foreign invaders. John Miljan is frontier fuhrer Nicholas Tower, who hires a gang of storm troopers-er, henchmen-to do his dirty work. Southern belle Louise Mason (Jacqueline Wells) initially aligns herself with Tower because he is ostensibly anti-Damyankee, but she finally turns against him when she realizes what he's up to. Calamity Jane also appears in the person of comic actress Sally Payne, while Gabby Hayes shows up as a character named-but of course-Gabby. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Daniel Boone, Trail Blazer
Daniel Boone, Trail Blazer was lensed in the Trucolor process. Brice Bennett plays the titular 18th century frontiersman, carving out a home for himself, his family and his fellow settlers in the wilds of Kentucky. The climax finds Boone and company defending Fort Boonesborough from a Shawnee Indian attack, fomented by unhinged renegade Simon Girty (Kem Dibbs). Lon Chaney does the strong-and-silent bit as Shawnee chief Blackfish. Daniel Boone, Trail Blazer was filmed in its entirety in Mexico. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Phantom Rancher
Cowboy star Ken Maynard goes the "Lone Ranger" route in Phantom Rancher. Upon inheriting his uncle's ranch, Ken Mitchell (Maynard) finds himself in the middle of a range war. Crooked real estate agent Collins (Ted Adams) is not averse to using strongarm methods to "persuade" the local ranchers to vacate the premises. When all else fails, hero Mitchell dons a domino mask and the new identity of "The Phantom Rancher", working outside the Law to protect the rights of his fellow ranchers and to bring Collins to justice. With Phantom Rancher, Ken Maynard brought his brief series for low-budget Colony Pictures to a close; it would be nearly two years before he'd return to moviemaking. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Broadway to Cheyenne
Also known as From Broadway to Cheyenne, this Rex Bell vehicle is an excellent amalgam of the western and gangster genres. Bell stars as a frontier detective who finds out that the territory has been invaded by a mob of New York gangsters. Displaying their usual strong-arm tactics, the villains set up a protection racket, targeting the local ranchers. But these citified thugs are no match for the tenacious Westerners, and pretty soon it is they who are screaming for help. Some genuinely hilarious comedy relief is provided by George Hayes, still several years removed from his familiar "Gabby" persona. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Round-Up Time in Texas
Gene Autry leaves the West behind (at least temporarily) in Roundup Time in Texas. Hired to deliver a herd of horses to his diamond-mining brother, Autry and his sidekick Frog Millhouse (Smiley Burnette) journey all the way to Africa. Hoping to get rid of the Autry boys and move in on the diamonds themselves, the villains frame Autry on a smuggling and murder charge. It's up to heroine Gwen (Maxine Doyle), the daughter of the murder victim, to clear Gene and place the blame where it belongs. Musical support is provided by the Five Cabin Kids, a quintet of talented black youngsters who previously appeared with Our Gang and W.C. Fields. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Outlaw
Perhaps Hollywood's greatest success du scandal of the 1940s, this odd psychological Western became a box office hit largely thanks to the costuming of leading lady Jane Russell (or, more accurately, its relative absence). Billy the Kid (Jack Buetel) and Doc Holliday (Walter Huston) are close friends until lawman Pat Garrett (Thomas Mitchell) attempts to ambush Billy and put him behind bars. Doc brings Billy to his ranch to hide out, but when Billy meets Doc's mistress Rio (Russell), he's instantly attracted to the buxom beauty. An intense chemistry quickly grows between them, despite the fact that Billy murdered Rio's brother. Billy and Rio secretly marry, but their love runs hot and cold, and soon Billy, Doc, and Rio are fighting among themselves as they're chased through the desert by Garrett and his posse. Director Howard Hawks and screenwriter Ben Hecht both worked on The Outlaw, but they went uncredited after disputes with the legendarily difficult financier (and sometimes producer/director) Howard Hughes, whose battles with the censors resulted in the film spending three years on the shelf before finally gaining wide release in a cut version in 1946. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Abilene Town
Dan Mitchell (Randolph Scott) is the town marshal of Abilene, KS, in the turbulent years after the Civil War and the start of the big cattle drives out of Texas. The town is growing faster than a lot of citizens are prepared to deal with it, especially as homesteaders start moving in, fighting for space with the cattlemen. Dan has kept the peace, such as it is, by keeping the saloons, gambling, and guns on one side of Main Street and the shop-owners, farmers, women, and children on the other. He's also been walking a tightrope in his own life, conducting a sometimes turbulent romance with Rita (Ann Dvorak), a saloon singer and co-owner, while also not discouraging the attentions of Sherry Balder (Rhonda Fleming), the "nice girl" daughter of one of the town's leading businessmen, who would love to marry Dan if only he would settle down. A new wave of homesteaders is arriving, and the cattlemen, cowboys, and saloon owners want them driven out and the town kept wide open, fearing the homesteaders' religious beliefs and the arrival of families, which means schools, building, and encroaching "respectability." Trouble breaks out and people are killed, with Dan caught in the middle. Using his guile and a good deal of bravery, and the unwitting help from the cowardly county sheriff (Edgar Buchanan), Dan manages to get the shop owners onto the side of the homesteaders, and plays a dangerous game of divide-and-conquer with the saloon-keepers and cowboys. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

Vengeance Valley
The old "Cain and Abel" plot device is redefined within Western terms in MGM's Vengeance Valley. Burt Lancaster stars as ranch-hand Owen Daybright, who has been raised as a son by rancher Arch Stroble (Ray Collins). Stroble's natural son Lee (Robert Walker) has always been envious of Owen, who in turn has spent most of his life pulling Lee out of trouble and keeping the boy's misdeeds a secret from the elder Stroble. When Lee fathers an illegitimate child, he tries to shift the responsibility on Owen, leading to a life-threatening confrontation with the vengeance-seeking brothers of the baby's mother (Sally Forrest). There's plenty more plot twists before virtue finally triumphs. Joanne Dru co-stars as Lee's long-suffering wife Jen, who harbors a secret yen for Owen. Since lapsing into public domain, Vengeance Valley has shown up with increasing frequency on cable television; it has also been made available in a narrated version for the visually impaired. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Angel and the Badman
One of John Wayne's most mystical films, Angel and the Badman is also the first production that Wayne personally produced. The star plays a wounded outlaw who is sheltered by a Quaker family. Attracted to the family's angelic daughter Gail Russell, the hard-bitten Wayne undergoes a slow and subtle character transformation; still, he is obsessed with killing the man (Bruce Cabot) who murdered his foster father. The storyline traces not only the regeneration of Wayne, but of the single-minded sheriff (Harry Carey) who'd previously been determined to bring Wayne to justice. Not a big hit in 1947, Angel and the Badman has since become the most frequently telecast of John Wayne's Republic films, thanks to its lapse into Public Domain status in 1974. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Duello nel Texas
The Spanish/Italian Gringo stars Richard Harrison as a combatant in the Mexican civil war. In between bloody skirmishes with the enemy, Harrison takes time out to settle a personal score with his hated foster father. With its Lone Avenger protagonist and its excessive violence, the film has all the earmarks of a "spaghetti western"--even though it was filmed in 1963, a year before Sergio Leone popularized that gore-encrusted genre. Gringo was not released in the US until 1968, after the success of Leone's Clint Eastwood vehicles. Originally released as Duello Nel Texas, Gringo is currently available on videotape under the title Gunfight at Red Sands. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Carson City Kid
Roy Rogers plays an outlaw out to avenge the murder of his brother in this fine Republic Western directed by one of the masters of the genre, Joseph Kane. Learning that the man he believes to be the killer, Lee Jessup (Bob Steele), is running a gambling establishment in Sonora, the Kid manages to obtain a job body guarding Jessup's saloon and its star attraction, Joby (Pauline Moore). But although intent on biding his time, the hero cannot stand idly by while Jessup is taking advantage of a naïve prospector (Noah Beery Jr.) and is forced to show his hand. One of Rogers' better early vehicles, The Carson City Kid is enlivened by a couple of good songs, including "Are You the One?" and "Sonora Moon," both by Peter Tinturia and performed by Rogers and Moore (who later admitted to having been dubbed). ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

In Old Caliente
As in all his early westerns, Roy Rogers battles true Old West outlaws in the fine In Old Caliente. He is, as usual, Roy Rogers, but this time a trusted hand at the Olde California ranchero belonging to Don José (Frank Puglia). Unbeknownst to the Don, however, his "half-breed" foreman, Suguaro (Frank La Rue), is in league with Calkins (Harry Woods), the nasty Gringo behind a series of gold-shipment robberies. With Suguaro's help, Calkins manages to pin the crimes on Roy and Gabby (George "Gabby" Hayes) and the Don has them imprisoned. But Rita (Katherine DeMille), Don José's Eastern-bred daughter, believes them to be innocent and secures their release. The ensuing chase leads straight to the Pacific Ocean and the evil Suguaro is killed in the surf. Roy Rogers performs "Sundown on the Range", by Fred Rose, "The Moon, She Will be Shining Tonight" and, in a duet with George "Gabby" Hayes, "We're Not Coming Out Tonight", the latter two penned by Walter Samuels. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Seventh Cavalry
Though the film's title may suggest otherwise, Seventh Cavalry takes place after Custer's Last Stand. Randolph Scott stars as Cavalry officer Tom Benson, who is branded a coward after supposedly deserting at the Little Big Horn. Benson hopes to redeem himself by personally leading a burial detail to the battlefield, despite the fact that the Indians haven't exactly left the premises. The excitement level in the closing reels more than justifies the slow, steady buildup to the finale. Innovative direction by the reliable Joseph H. Lewis enlivens this verbose western. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Painted Desert
1938's The Painted Desert borrows the title and precious little else from the 1931 western of the same name. Hero George O'Brien makes it his mission in life to stop crooked Fred Kohler from getting his mitts on a valuable strip of land. He also takes time out to romance heroine Laraine Johnson, who went on to a substantial film career as Laraine Day. Singing cowboy Ray Whitley, billed third, provides three sagebrush tunes, including the title number. Now regarded as one of George O'Brien's weaker RKO Radio westerns, The Painted Desert pleased the crowd back in 1938, turning a tidy profit for the studio. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Under California Stars
Opening with a brief look at Republic Pictures' back lot in Studio City, CA, this average Roy Rogers songfest settles down to weightier matters after Roy returns to the old homestead to perform a radio broadcast. Peace and quiet, however, are rudely interrupted when someone kidnaps the cowboy crooner's famous horse Trigger and demands a $100,000 ransom for the handsome equine. The perpetrators of this dastardly deed are horse traders "Pop" Jordan (George Lloyd) and Lige McFarland (Wade Crosby), who employ a mole at the Rogers outfit in the person of young Ted Conover (Michael Chapin), Lige's innocent stepson, who will do anything to recover the imperiled Trigger. When not chasing down nasty kidnappers, Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan and The Sons of the Pioneers (featuring Pat Brady) and leading lady Jane Frazee perform "Under California Stars", "King of the Cowboys", and Little Saddle Pals", all by Jack Elliott. Like he had in his initial Republic starring vehicle, Under Western Stars (1938), Roy also sings Gene Autry's dramatic "Dust". Under California Stars was released in Trucolor. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

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

Arizona Stagecoach
In this western the three Range Busters go undercover, take on a gang of ruthless outlaws, and bring them to justice. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Stagecoach to Denver
An exemplary "Red Ryder" Western, Stagecoach to Denver features Red (Allan Lane), his aunt, the Duchess (Martha Wentworth), and Little Beaver (Bobby Blake) caring for Dickie Ray (Bobby Hyatt), a young child who has broken his back in a stagecoach collision that also took the life of Land Commissioner Felton (Edward Cassidy). Unbeknownst to the people of Elkhorn, stage owner Big Bill Lambert (Roy Barcroft) had arranged the "accident" in order to get rid of the pesky land commissioner who threatened to ruin his plans for controlling all communication between Elkhorn and Denver. Little Dickie requires an operation but Doc Kimball (Tom Chatterton) needs the consent from his nearest relative, Denver resident May Barnes (Marin Sais), whom the boy has never met. Since she is scheduled to arrive on the same stage as the new land commissioner, Taylor (Tom Chatterton), Aunt May poses a problem for Big Bill, who has them both kidnapped and replaced with his own people, Wally (Stanley Price) and Beautiful (Peggy Stewart). The latter feels sorry for little Dickie and is ready to bail but Big Bill forces her to go through with the deception. The boy survives his operation, of course, and Big Bill's treachery is eventually revealed. But Beautiful pays a rather heavy price for her part of the deception when she takes a bullet meant for Bobby. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Bells of San Angelo
The Bells of San Angelo was the second Republic Roy Rogers western to be filmed in the "new" Trucolor process (actually the old Magnacolor process). Set in the modern west, the story involves a silver-smuggling racket headed by rotten Rex Gridley (John McGuire). In a novel scripting touch, Roy Rogers doesn't outwit the villains-and in fact is soundly beaten by the bad guys halfway through the film. It's up to heroine Lee Madison (Dale Evans), a writer of fanciful cowboy novels, to save the day! By taking Roy Rogers off his "King of the Cowboys" pedestal, Bells of San Angelo succeeds in humanizing this western icon, and the film is all the better for it. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Rough Riders' Roundup
Hot on the heels of Frontier Pony Express came the equally exciting Roy Rogers vehicle Rough Riders' Roundup. In the first film, Rogers was an express rider during the Civil War era; in the second, he's a veteran of the Spanish American war (ubiquitous fellow, isn't he?) With several of his fellow Rough Riders, Rogers joins the Texas border patrol, where he almost immediately clashes with a villain named Arizona (William Pawley). While maintaining a respectable facade, Arizona and his minions rob the stagecoaches and express offices, divesting the local prospectors of their hard-earned gold. With the help of grizzled old sidekick Rusty (Raymond Hatton)-not to mention the rest of the Rough Riders-Rogers crushes Arizona's operation once and for all. The film boasts two leading ladies: Rogers' usual vis-a-vis Mary Hart, and former silent star Dorothy Sebastian, here making a comeback attempt. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Arizona Days
In his third starring Western, former radio singer Tex Ritter played a minstrel performer turned tax collector! During a performance at the Tombstone, Arizona, opera house, Tex Malinson (Ritter) courageously goes up against Harry Price (Forrest Taylor) and his henchmen, who refuse to pay the price of admission. The local sheriff (Budd Buster) is so impressed that he suggests Malinson for the job of tax collector. Price, needless to say, is a major tax offender but Tex and sidekick "Grass" Hopper (Syd Saylor) manage to "convince" him to do his civic duty. In between collecting taxes from town bullies, Ritter performed his own Tombstone, Arizona and High, Wide and Handsome, as well as If Love Were Mine by Frank Sanucci. Salty Holmes, known as "The Harmonica Maestro," performed his specialty of playing two harmonicas at the same time: one with his mouth, the other with his nose, and former Broadway luminary Ethelind Terry played one of Ritter's fellow minstrels. The erstwhile operetta diva's first film since the disastrous Lord Byron of Broadway (1930), it was also to be her last. Producer Edward F. Finney headed a trek to Wilcox, Arizona, for a few scenes, but most of Arizona Days was made at the Brandeis and Garner Ranches in Chatsworth, California. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Paroled to Die
Paroled-to Die was one of Bob Steele's best starring westerns for producer A. W. Hackel. Wasting precious little time with plot or dialogue, the film gets down to business with a two-fisted opening action sequence. Thereafter, the thrills never let up, as hero Doug Redfern (Steele) tries to clear himself of a murder rap, orchestrated by crooked politico Harvey Meline (Karl Hackett). Offering aid and comfort to our hero are government agent Lucky Gosden (Horace Murphy) and heroine Joan Blackman (Kathleen Elliot). Originally slated for released through Hackel's own Spectrum pictures, Paroled-to Die was eventually distributed by Republic. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Kansan
Like several other Harry Sherman Productions of the 1942-43 season, The Kansan was originally slated for a Paramount release, then redirected to United Artists. Richard Dix and Jane Wyatt, stars of the previous Sherman effort Buckskin Frontier, are reunited herein as western lawman John Bonniwell and rancher's daughter Eleanor Sager. After chasing the James Gang out of town, Bonniwell is appointed marshal by local bigwig Steve Barat (Albert Dekker). It turns out, however, that Barat is a crook with delusions of grandeur, hoping to use Bonniwell as a glorified henchman in his rise to power. Meanwhile, an unorthodox romantic triangle develops between Bonniwell, Eleanor as Barat's brother Jeff (Victor Jory). A powerhouse cast makes this modestly-budgeted western seem more expensive than it really was. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Santa Fe Trail
Paramount star Richard Arlen heads a strong cast in this early talkie western about a sheepherder falsely accused of killing an Indian. Luckily for the hero, two little children (Mitzi Green and Junior Durkin) witnessed the murder and can point the sheriff in the direction of the true culprit. The film was unusual in that Mexican characters were allowed to speak Spanish. Reviewers at the time, however, didn't buy it and pointed out that leading lady Rosita Moreno quite obviously "had a good knowledge of English." Both Mitzi Green and Junior Durkin were admired child stars at the time; the latter, who portrayed Huck Finn in both Tom Sawyer (1930) and Huckleberry Finn (1931), sadly lost his life at the age of 19, the victim of a car accident near San Diego, California that also claimed the lives of producer-director Robert J. Horner and the father of child star Jackie Coogan. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

White Comanche
In this film, the twin sons of a white man and an Indian woman must struggle to overcome both their sibling rivalry and their conflicting identities. ~ Iotis Erlewine, Rovi

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