The Big Stampede/Ride Him, Cowboy/Haunted Gold [DVD]

At the outset of his career, following the box-office failure of The Big Trail, John Wayne found himself relegated to the ranks of B-western stars, in between small roles in bigger-budgeted, more mainstream movies. It was at Warner Bros., in a handful of low-budget oaters (that were mostly sound remakes of films that Ken Maynard had done as silents) that he first got his chance in the genre. He's pretty good in Ride Him, Cowboy, Wayne showing that he already knows a little bit about dramatic entrances when he rescues Duke the horse (who was his co-star in all six of the Warner Bros. movies) from a court-imposed destruction order. And that movie, uniquely among these ultra-low-budget productions, has him cast with a very pretty leading lady in Ruth Hall -- also aboard are Otis Harlan, providing comic relief, and Henry B. Walthall providing some dramatic heft. The source print looks and sounds great, and The Big Stampede also looks good and sounds better; but Haunted Gold apparently hasn't been preserved quite as well, to judge from what was used here. It's more than passable, and better quality than one its used to from low-budget westerns of this period, but there are also flaws in evidence at various points, and some of the reel-change points look rough; and the sound isn't as strong as on the other two titles. As with the films themselves, there are no frills on the DVD -- no bonus features and barely any chapters. But for John Wayne completists, this will be a satisfying budget-priced disc.
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The Big Stampede
Thrifty Warner Bros. remade their old silent Ken Maynard Westerns as starring vehicles for John Wayne, dressing young Wayne up to match the stock footage of Maynard in action. The Big Stampede used plenty of footage from its 1927 predecessor, The Land Beyond the Law, and the inserts, filmed at a completely different location, are rather obvious. Wayne plays John Steele, a deputy sheriff sent by Governor Wallace (Berton Churchill) to protect settlers arriving in New Mexico Territory. Cattle baron Sam Crew (Noah Beery) and his henchman Arizona (Paul Hurst) aim to stop the settlers while Sonora Joe (Luis Alberni) and his Vaqueros arrive from Mexico to rob them. When old settler Cal Brett is murdered by Arizona, Steele deputizes Sonora and his men, and together they bring the killer to justice. The settlers, meanwhile, drive their herd to the nearby fort, and Crew decides to create a stampede. Steele saves Brett's niece Ginger (Mae Madison) from being killed by the stampeding cattle, but the nasty Crew is trampled to death, a victim of his own greed. A better-than-average B-Western, The Big Stampede benefits from colorful performances by Beery, Hurst, Alberni and Wayne's horse Duke. Freckled Sherwood Bailey, formerly Spuds in the Our Gang series, provides a few moments of comedy as Ginger's slingshot-crazy kid brother, and Madison, usually a tough dame in Warner's gangster dramas, makes an adequate love interest. Veteran Bad Guy Tom Bay, in his final film before being killed in a bar-room brawl in October of 1933, appears unbilled as an army messenger. Not the studio to let a good plot and usable stock footage go to waste, Warner Bros. filmed Marion Jackson's story a third time in 1937, as Land Beyond the Law, starring Dick Foran. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Haunted Gold
One of The Duke's earlier efforts, this John Wayne vehicle sees our hero using his wits against not only gold hunters, but also the evil specters that haunt the land's treasures. A labyrinth of underground paths provides the backdrop for many of the action scenes. ~ Michael Hastings, Rovi

Ride Him, Cowboy
Ride Him, Cowboy was the first entry in John Wayne's "B"-western series for Warner Bros. Wayne plays John Drury, a handsome stranger who is blamed for a recent wave of barn-burnings. On the verge of being lynched, John is exonerated by the previously unconscious victim of the villains. At this point, our hero sets out to round up the genuine miscreants, headed by a skull-faced rapscallion known as The Hawk (Frank S. Hagney). Of interest is the fact that Wayne's faithful horse is named "Duke." Like the rest of Wayne's Warners series, Ride Him, Cowboy relies heavily upon stock footage from First National's silent Ken Maynard oaters. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • John Wayne
    John Wayne - John Steele
  • Image coming soon
    Mae Madison - Ginger Malloy
  • Paul Hurst
    Paul Hurst - "Arizona" Frank Bailey
  • Luis Alberni
    Luis Alberni - Sonora Joe
  • Berton Churchill
    Berton Churchill - Gov. Lew Wallace
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