John Wayne: 6 Movie Collection [DVD]

This set of a half-dozen oaters starring the legendary John Wayne includes Rainbow Valley, The Trail Beyond, The Lawless Frontier, Paradise Canyon, The Dawn Rider, and The Desert Trail.
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Synopsis

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 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

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

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

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

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