Monogram Cowboy Collection, Vol. 1 [4 Discs] [DVD]

As film historians may recall, Monogram established itself as one of the premiere sources of "B" budget westerns during the first half of the 20th Century. The studio did particularly well with weekend matinees, with oaters starring such period icons as Johnny Mack Brown and singing cowboy Jimmy Wakely. This box set caters to fans of Monogram with several of its classic features that were produced between 1948 and 1951. Contents include: Oklahoma Justice (1951), Man from Sonora (1951), Texas Lawmen (1951), Cavalry Scout (1951) and more.
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Oklahoma Justice
Johnny Mack Brown goes up against a lady bank robber in this average Mack Brown series late-entry from Monogram. The lady, played by Barbara Allen, is of course called "Ma." In order to get the goods on "Ma" and her "brood," Mack Brown must masquerade as a lone bandit. The ruse works up to a point but Johnny's real identity is eventually exposed, with a rather well-orchestrated barroom brawl as a consequence. Bruce Edwards and 1950s B-movie perennial Phyllis Coates take care of the romance, while Mack Brown, his physique no longer svelte, uses his fists on the likes of Marshall Reed and Lane Bradford. The aforementioned Barbara Allen is not the popular comedienne Barbara Allen who also billed herself Vera Vague. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Cavalry Scout
Rod Cameron heads the cast of the Monogram "B-plus" western Cavalry Scout. Cameron plays army scout Kirby Frye, who has been assigned to track down a stolen cache of weaponry. Frye suspects that local troublemaker Martin Gavin (James Millican) is the criminal mastermind, but he needs proof. The film matriculates into a tense cat-and-mouse game between Frye and Gavin, culminating in a long-overdue action finale. Cavalry Scout was lensed in Cinecolor, a pleasing two-color process which Monogram reserved for its prestige productions. The film was produced by Walter Mirisch, who'd later turn out such "A"-flicks as The Apartment, West Side Story and The Great Escape. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Oklahoma Blues
Two communities fight to become county seat in this Jimmy Wakely music western from Monogram Pictures. When Rainbow's End, one of the two towns in question, experiences a stage holdup, State Commissioner Walton (J.C. Lytton) looks to Yuba Junction where, unbeknownst to him, the local undertaker, Beasley (I. Stanford Jolley), is buying up all the surrounding land by means of terror. At first confused with a notorious, but highly fictitious, outlaw named "The Melody Kid," Jimmy obtains the job of deputy sheriff in Rainbow's End with a mandate to go after both the stage robbers and their secret boss, Beasley. Accompanied by "Fiddlin'" Arthur Smith, Dick Reinhart and Don Weston, Wakely performs his own and Smiley Burnette's "On the Strings of My Lonesome Guitar" and "Oklahoma Blues", Tiny Stokes' "Judy" and the traditional "The Old Chisholm Trail". ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Texas Lawmen
Texas Lawmen was one of the shortest entries in Monogram's Johnny Mack Brown series, running a scant 54 minutes. This time, Brown is hunting for three desperate criminals. Fortunately for Our Hero, two of the crooks -- Bart and Steve Morrow (Stan Jolley and Lee Roberts) -- are father and son, on the verge of a major falling out. Ultimately, Steve Morrow casts his lot with the Good Guys. Texas Lawmen differs from previous rubber-stamp Johnny Mack Brown westerns in one respect: there is no heroine, nor even a supporting actress in the cast. Texas Lawmen was based on a story by actor Myron Healey, who often showed up in the Brown vehicles as a villain. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Gun Law Justice
In one of his better later Westerns, singing cowboy Jimmy Wakely comes to the aid of a reformed outlaw and his wayward son. Wrongfully accused of a shooting, the outlaw, Hank Cardigan (Lee Phelps), is rescued by Jimmy, who manages to obtain a job for his new friend at the local express office. But Cardigan's unruly son, Tom (John James), is determined to repeat his father's mistakes -- until, that is, Jimmy and sidekick Cannonball (Dub Taylor) convince him that crime does not pay. Wakely and an unbilled Ray Whitley perform "I Have Looked the Whole World Over" and Foy Willing's "Rose of Santa Fe." ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Outlaw Gold
Johnny Mack Brown stars in the Monogram oater Outlaw Gold. The plot is motivated by revenge: sentenced to five years in prison, vicious gunman Sonny Lang (Myron Healey) vows to "get" Dave Willis (Brown) the moment he's released. Our Hero, however, can't be bothered by such trivialities. He's too busy trying to prevent the hijacking of a gold shipment on the Mexican border. Inevitably, Willis and Lang's paths cross, but not before Willis exposes the mastermind behind the robbery. The film's romantic element is handled by Marshall Reed (cast as a crusading newspaperman) and Jane Adams. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Man from Sonora
Partners of the Sunset
Country and western warbler-turned-cowboy star Jimmy Wakely, normally a colorless and unexciting screen presence, is actually given some action sequences in this virtually musicless western. Wakeley and comical sidekick Dub Taylor stumble across a murder scheme, hatched by beautiful but deadly Christine Larson. The victim is her husband, played by Leonard Penn (who happens to be the real-life father of current screen stars Sean and Christopher Penn). What with its black-widow plot and overdependence upon shadowy art direction, Partners of the Sunset is more "film noir" than western. Joining Jimmy Wakeley in the film's sparse singing sequences is the equally bland Ray Whitley. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cowboy Cavalier
In this western a singing cowboy and his side-kick rescue a pretty gal who runs a stagecoach and finds herself in trouble. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

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