Cisco Kid Western Collection [2 Discs] [DVD]

This double-DVD set containing six films marks the first appearance of Monogram's Cisco Kid movies in any high-end video format. Another volume, devoted to the earlier movies in the series -- starring Duncan Renaldo -- has also appeared. The Gilbert Roland Cisco Kid movies have never had much of a reputation among western afficianados, mostly owing to Roland's penchant for overacting and also the period in which they were done -- by the mid-1940's, it was clear that the days for this kind of B-picture production were drawing to a close, and the arrival of television in the second half of the decade sealed their doom; in the meantime, producers were hedging their bets by cutting budgets ever lower, and it began to really show in these pictures. But they were still fun and entertaining in their time, especially outside the big cities. The transfers are good full-screen (1.33-to-1) jobs, from original 35mm sources (which are also a major improvement on the television prints seen in the 1950's) -- the cinematography is nothing great, as these were B-pictures from a decided B-studio, and one gets the feeling that, ideally (if this were, say, 50 years ago or so), the producers would have gone back about one generation deeper into source material on some of the titles here; but at least one can make out everything necessary in the night shots (indeed, maybe too much), and the day shots are no strain on the eyes; and each movie has been given a generous dozen chapters, all well-chosen and labeled. The sound is good and loud, and the only special features included are on disc two, which contains trailers for other westerns from VCI. Each disc opens automatically to an easy-to-use dual-layer menu.
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Overview

Special Features

  • Scene selection
  • Bios & trailers

Synopsis

The Gay Cavalier
There'd already been a "Cisco Kid" B-picture titled The Gay Caballero, so this Monogram "Cisco" entry was released as The Gay Cavalier. No matter: it means the same thing, and the film is the mixture as before. Gilbert Roland stars as Cisco, while Martin Garralaga, usually cast as Pancho, is here seen as a wealthy ranch owner. With his usually roguish aplomb, Cisco saves Garralaga from a gang of thieves, engaging chief villain Tris Coffin in an exciting bit of climactic swordplay. Gay Cavalier represented Gilbert Roland's first "Cisco Kid" endeavor; he would appear in five more before being replaced by Duncan Renaldo in 1947. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Beauty and the Bandit
Gilbert Roland dominates the action in a colorful performance as the bandit hero the Cisco Kid, this time up against a surprisingly vicious plot by a local doctor to steal land from the local peasants and small ranchers by poisoning them to drive them off, and then reselling the property to absentee European landlords. He finds an unexpected ally in Jeanne DuBois (Ramsay Ames), who starts out as part of the plot but is turned around by Roland's charm and charisma after a few fireworks. The direction is uneven, with William Nigh not quite able to make the flatter parts of the script as entertaining or smooth as they ought to be. Evidently, the producers knew they were in trouble with this downbeat script and took steps to rescue the picture. Seeing the sparks fly in the scenes in the first third of the picture, in which Ames is disguised as a man (which evokes echoes -- albeit very distant -- of Shakespeare's As You Like It) and verbally jousts with Roland, more material was written on the spot for the two of them, depicting a competition that becomes much more heated when her gender is revealed. By her own account, Nigh and Ames were friends, and she was a good sport on this shoot whatever they had her doing, and it's a pity they didn't go further with the rivalry between Roland's and Ames' characters, who might've been the Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones of their era. Roland also wrote some of his own dialogue and poetry for this effort, which seems very hackneyed today, but played just fine for audiences in 1946. (Note: In early TV prints of Beauty And The Bandit, all references to the Cisco Kid and O. Henry in the credits were blacked out, and mentions of the Cisco Kid and "Cisco" in the dialogue awkwardly dubbed over as "Chico" -- one suspects this was because the exclusive TV rights to the Cisco Kid had been sold to another producer for the TV series starring Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo). ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

King of the Bandits
In this entry in the long-running western series, Cisco and Pancho must clear the Kid's name after he is blamed for recent stagecoach robberies. In reality the robber is another disguised as the Kid. Meanwhile Cisco is captured by U.S. Marshals. Fortunately, he escapes them, captures the real crook, and clears his name. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Robin Hood of Monterey
Gilbert Roland made his penultimate appearance as the Cisco Kid in Monogram's Robin Hood of Monterrey. Roland is joined in his exploits by Chris-Pin Martin as Pancho. The film's 56 minutes is a near-nonstop anschluss of fistfights and gunplay, occasionally punctuated by Cisco's poetic wooing of whatever senorita happens to be around. The bad guys are headed by veterans Jack LaRue and Evelyn Brent; the last-named performer had by this time made western villainesses her particular specialty. After Robin Hood of Monterey and King of the Bandits, Gilbert Roland relinquished the Cisco Kid mantle to Duncan Renaldo. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Riding the California Trail
The Cisco Kid attempts to break up an arranged marriage in this romantic B-Western from Monogram. Learning that nasty Raoul (Ted Hecht) is marrying lovely Dolores Ramirez (Inez Cooper) out of greed only, the Kid (Gilbert Roland) goes undercover as famous California adventurer Don Luis Salazar. The ruse works, and after a swordfight or two, Dolores is free to marry whomever she chooses. Teala Loring, as Raoul's true girlfriend, sings "Mi Amor Ya Volvia" by Gladys Flores and Edward Kay. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

South of Monterey
An average "Cisco Kid" Western-adventure, South of Monterey features ace villain Harry Woods as Bennett, a nasty tax collector foreclosing on the poor to benefit himself. Young rancher Carlos Mandreno (George J. Lewis) refuses to give in and is supported by Maria Morales (Marjorie Riordan), the sister of the chief of police, who promises her brother, Arturo (Martin Garralaga), that she will marry Bennett if he will leave Carlos alone. Carlos' cattle, meanwhile, is rustled by a mystery villain known only as "The Silver Bandit" and Arturo arrests the Cisco Kid (Gilbert Roland). The latter, however, escapes with the aid of a fiery saloon singer (Iris Flores) and manages not only to hunt down the evil Bennett, but also unmask the real "Silver Bandit." Iris Flores sings "Tacos de Amor" and "Anoche Hable con la Luna," both by Gladys Flores and Monogram house composer Edward Kay. South of Monterey was the second of six "Cisco Kid" Westerns Gilbert Roland would do for the little Poverty Row studio. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

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