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Great American Westerns: John Wayne Collection - 20 Movies [4 Discs] [DVD]

Release Date:07/03/2012
"The Duke," screen legend John Wayne, worked in an incredible number of genres prior to his death in 1977, but will be forever associated with the classic American western and the indelible ways that he contributed to, and shaped, its iconography. This box set caters to fans of Wayne's westerns with 20 films from that tradition. Features seen here include: The Star Packer, Riders of Destiny, The Trail Beyond and Randy Rides Alone.

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    Shadow of the Eagle: Chapter 09 - When Thieves Fall Out
    As the opening of chapter nine of Shadow of the Eagle reveals, the carnival owner, Gregory (Edward Hearn), is merely knocked unconscious. Craig (John Wayne) points a finger at a very suspicious Major Evans (Richard Tucker), but the wily director instead accuses Green (Ethan Laidlaw), another member of the board. Through trickery and deception, the bill of sale that may reveal the identity of The Eagle is passed back and forth between Evans, Green, and Craig with the latter emerging the victor. Unfortunately, The Eagle's henchmen are hiding in the getaway car and during a furious struggle for possession of the slip, Craig is thrown right in the path of an oncoming automobile. ~ 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

    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

    Shadow of the Eagle: Chapter 03 - The Eagle Strikes
    Both Craig McCoy (John Wayne) and Jean Gregory (Dorothy Gulliver) survive the crash into the Water St. building. Major Evans (Richard Tucker) of the Evans Aero Corp. still believes that Jean knows the whereabouts of her father, Nathan (Edward Hearn), and suggests calling the police. Using subterfuge, Craig ushers Jean out of the room but instead of escaping, the girl is kidnapped by a masked man. Craig takes up the chase on motorcycle and is able to catch the mystery man, who proves to be Clark (Edmund Burns) of the factory board. Denying that he is The Eagle, Clark is about to reveal the identity of the real mastermind when shot and killed by a hidden assassin. To protect Craig and Jean, Kelly (Ernie Adams), the carnival barker, confesses to the killing. Craig, meanwhile, follows a real suspect, Gardner (Roy D'Arcy), to the top of the carnival Ferris wheel. A struggle ensues and as chapter three concludes, Craig is seen plunging to the ground. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

    Shadow of the Eagle: Chapter 11 - The Eagle's Wings
    Although he appeared to have been killed by The Eagle in chapter 10 of Shadow of the Eagle, chapter 11 reveals that Pat Kelly (Ernie Adams) survived the attack and, although badly hurt, made it back to the carnival. When another skywriting plane lands without a trace of a pilot, Jean (Dorothy Gulliver), who climbs onboard, discovers that it is in fact radio controlled by The Eagle. But before the girl can escape, the mystery villain pulls a lever and the plane takes off. Craig discovers the control room and is about to take over the command of the plane when knocked out by the mystery villain. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

    Shadow of the Eagle: Chapter 07 - Eagle or Vulture
    Chapter seven reveals the carnival's vengeance to be a mere ruse and the performers instead confront Gardner (Roy D'Arcy), The Eagle's chief henchman. But despite threats from the strong man (Ivan Linow), he refuses to reveal the identity of his boss. Masquerading as Gardner, Henry, the ventriloquist (James Bradbury, Jr., gains entrance to the gang's headquarters but the ploy backfires and both Henry and Craig (John Wayne) are captured. They manage to escape, however, but their car is forced off the road in the ensuing chase. ~ 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

    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

    Shadow of the Eagle: Chapter 08 - On the Spot
    The gang captures an unconscious Craig (John Wayne), whose automobile has crashed, but ignores Henry, the ventriloquist (James Bradbury, Jr.). Back at the carnival, the police are searching for Gregory (Edward Hearn), but although betrayed by Bob, the clown (Billy West), the carnival operator manages to escape through a magician's trick cabinet. Unaware that Craig, too, has escaped, Gregory and Jean (Dorothy Gulliver) arrange a meeting with the board of directors at the Evans Aero Corp. in the hope of persuading them to release the young stunt flyer. In the middle of the negotiation, the lights go out and when they return, Gregory is found prostrate on the floor, the apparent victim of an assassination. In addition, a bill of sale that would help prove his innocence has vanished. ~ 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

    Shadow of the Eagle: Chapter 01 - The Carnival Mystery
    In 1918, a member of his own squadron shot down an ace flyer known as the Eagle in the mistaken belief that he was the enemy. Fourteen years later, a threatening note demanding satisfaction arrives at the Evans Aero Corp., whose board constitutes the surviving members of the Eagle's World War I squadron. One of the board members, Green (Lloyd Whitlock), discovers that the man they used to call the Eagle, Nathan Gregory (Edward Hearn), is still very much alive but wheelchair bound and the operator of a carnival. When Gregory, who has been blaming the Evans Aero Corp. for stealing an invaluable invention of his, suddenly disappears, young stunt pilot Craig McCoy (John Wayne) accuses the board of kidnapping. The meeting, however, is interrupted by a mysterious skywriting message showing the name "Clark" slashed by a horizontal line. The lights go out and a disconcerting voice intones: "the Eagle has struck!" When the light comes back on, Clark (Edmund Burns) is found murdered. Even Craig believes Nathan Gregory to be the killer, but the carnival operator's daughter, Jean (Dorothy Gulliver), swears to his innocence. A man resembling Gregory takes off in McCoy's airplane and attempts to kill both Craig and Jean. ~ 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 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

    Shadow of the Eagle: Chapter 05 - The Telephone Cipher
    Although the drainpipe breaks away from the wall of the Evans Aero Corp. headquarters, Craig McCoy (John Wayne) lands safely on a roof below. Two of Gardner's men, Boyle (Yakima Canutt and Moore (Bud Osborne), catch up with the fleeing Gregorys, Jean (Dorothy Gulliver) and her father Nathan (Edward Hearn), and cunningly bring them to the Ridpath Sanitarium where Gregory's claim to be a kidnap victim is treated as mental illness. By pretending to be a physician, Craig manages to free both father and daughter but is himself knocked unconscious by Moore. With the henchmen in hot pursuit, Gregory and Jean's car race through a roadblock and appears to explode. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

    The Lucky Texan
    The third entry in John Wayne's superior Lone Star series for producer Paul Malvern, The Lucky Texan features Wayne as Jerry Mason, a young college graduate who, along with old family friend Jake Benson (George Hayes), locates a secret gold field. Returning to town with their gold, the two friends make the mistake of trusting the local assayer (Lloyd Whitlock) and his equally crooked partner (Yakima Canutt). The villains take a shot at Jake and, believing they killed the old coot, blame young Jerry for the "murder." At his trial, Jerry is delighted to discover his "victim" among the spectators, dressed in a costume formerly used in a local presentation of Charley's Aunt. Usually playing villains in the Lone Star Westerns, George Hayes got an opportunity to practice his later popular Gabby character in this entry. The Lucky Texan also featured several fine examples of director Robert North Bradbury's famous "swish-pan" method, in which characters are brought from one place to another as the camera sweeps over the landscape in a blur. As always, Yakima Canutt doubled both Wayne, Hayes, and several of the villains. In fact, Canutt got to virtually chase himself in a gasoline-powered handcar in the film's exciting finale. In addition to Wayne, Hayes, Canutt, and Whitlock, the Malvern stock company players did their usual fine work, including Earl Dwire as an elderly sheriff, stunt man Ed Parker as the sheriff's crooked son, and Gordon de Main as the local banker. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, 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

    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

    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

    Shadow of the Eagle: Chapter 10 - The Man Who Knows
    Although he manages to avoid the oncoming vehicle by rolling away in the last second before impact, chapter 10 of Shadow of the Eagle reveals that Craig McCoy (John Wayne) remains a captive of The Eagle's gang. By using trickery, however, the young flyer sends Boyle (Yakima Canutt) and Moore (Bud Osborne) on a wild goose chase and then threatens Green (Ethan Laidlaw) to reveal the truth of the much vaunted bill of sale; the fact that the board of directors of the Evans Aero Corp. purchased Gregory's invention from one Frederick P. Kelly, the same Pat Kelly, in fact, who's in jail for murdering board member Clark. Interrogated by Jean (Dorothy Gulliver) and her father (Edward Hearn), Kelly (Ernie Adams) admits to having stolen the invention and is about to reveal the of The Eagle when he, too, is shot by an unseen assassin. ~ 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

    Shadow of the Eagle: Chapter 12 - The Shadow Unmasked
    The final chapter of Shadow of the Eagle reveals that just prior to being knocked out by the masked villain Craig McCoy (John Wayne) managed to land the radio-controlled plane carrying Jean (Dorothy Gulliver) by pulling a lever on the control board. With the assistance of Danby (Walter Miller) and the ventriloquist Henry (James Bradbury, Jr.), a quickly recovered Craig sets a trap for The Eagle. When the mystery villain arrives at the carnival to do away with the pesky but heavily bandaged Kelly (Ernie Adams), he is shocked to find Craig instead. The villain's identity revealed, the remaining board members vote the now vindicated Gregory (Edward Hearn) to join the Evans Aero Corp. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, 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

    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

    Shadow of the Eagle: Chapter 06 - Code of the Carnival
    As chapter six of The Shadow of the Eagle reveals, Jean (Dorothy Gulliver) and her father, Nathan Gregory (Edward Hearn), suffer a blown tire but are otherwise unharmed. They manage to escape Moore (Bud Osborne) and Boyle (Yakima Canutt) but a return to the carnival is ruined when Craig McCoy (John Wayne) finds himself framed in yet another skywriting incident. Apparently believing him to be guilty, Jean demands that the carnival performers wreak a terrible vengeance by beating a confession out of the young man. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

    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

    'Neath the Arizona Skies
    John Wayne attempts to locate Shirley Jean Rickert's wayward father in this low-budget Western from his days with Monogram. The little girl, a "half-breed," is the heir to a 50,000-dollar Indian oil claim, but she needs the signature of her long-lost father in order to collect. Chris Morrell, Nina's foster father, manages to get the tyke out of town before Sam Black (Yakima Canutt) and his gang can get their grubby hands on her and her inheritance, but other villains learn of the girl's potential windfall, including express office robbers Vic Byrd (Jack Rockwell) and Jim Moore (Jay Wilsey). When Vic finally gets hold of the child, he is shot and killed by one of his own hands, Tom (Earl Dwire), who is revealed to be Nina's real father. With Tom's help, Chris manages to trick the Black gang and is able to storm their hideout. In the ensuing melee, Tom is fatally shot but Byrd manages to escape with Nina. Chris goes after them and there is a final confrontation in a raging river. 'Neath the Arizona Skies was based on Gun Glory, a short story by B.R. Tuttle, which had been filmed in 1933 by maverick producer Victor Adamson as Circle Canyon. This earlier version starred Buddy Roosevelt as Chris and Clarise Woods as the little heiress. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

    Shadow of the Eagle: Chapter 04 - A Man of a Million Voices
    Chapter four of Shadow of the Eagle reveals how Craig McCoy (John Wayne) manages to grab hold of a lower part of the Ferris wheel and our hero is soon safely back on solid ground. Poking around at the Evans Aero Corp., the young aviator comes across the kidnapped Nathan Gregory (Edward Hearn) but is no closer to discovering the identity of The Eagle. The search for clues leads to the roof of the factory building where Craig is cornered by some of Gardner's (Roy D'Arcy) henchmen. As the episode comes to its conclusion, the intrepid fly-boy is hanging precariously from a drainpipe, which is threatening to break away from the building. ~ 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

    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

    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

    Shadow of the Eagle: Chapter 02 - Pinholes
    Craig McCoy (John Wayne) and Jean Gregory (Dorothy Gulliver) survive the attack from the avenging skywriting pilot known as The Eagle and who may or may not be Jean's father Nathan Gregory (Edward Hearn). But Craig instead suspects The Eagle to be one of the directors of the Evans Aero Corp. and that Gregory has been kidnapped. Investigating the factory, Craig discovers that Clark (Edmund Burns), the board member thought to have been killed by The Eagle, is still alive but unconscious. Jean, meanwhile, reports to a building on Water St. after receiving a coded letter from her missing father. Locating the captured carnival operator, the girl manages to get words to Craig who races to the rescue with The Eagle's henchmen in hot pursuit. As chapter two concludes, Craig's automobile crashes into the Water St. scaffolding carrying the snooping Jean. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

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