Ultimate Western Collection [12 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

One-Eyed Jacks
Western bandit Kid Rio (Marlon Brando) is betrayed by his partner, Dad Longworth (Karl Malden). Escaping from prison, Rio learns that Longworth has become a wealthy and influential lawman. Rio thirsts for revenge, but bides his time, waiting for the right moment to strike. In the meantime, Rio spitefully seduces Longworth's adopted daughter, Louisa (Pina Pellicer). After killing a man in self-defense, Rio is publicly whipped by the powerful Longworth. When Rio's old gang accidentally kills a child during another holdup, Longworth has the perfect excuse to eliminate the troublesome Rio once and for all by hanging him. But that's not what happens at all. Stripped to its fundamentals, One-Eyed Jacks is a workable Western, worthy of perhaps 90 minutes' running time. But when Marlon Brando succeeded Stanley Kubrick in the director's chair, he allowed the film's 60-day shooting schedule to stretch into six months, and delivered a finished product running in excess of four hours. The current 141-minute version of One-Eyed Jacks isn't as ponderous as some critics have claimed, but it's still too much of a good thing. While Brando the director isn't precisely in the Kubrick class, Brando the actor delivers one of his finest and most focused performances (though he is upstaged throughout by Karl Malden). ~ Hal Erickson, 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

Vengeance Valley
The old "Cain and Abel" plot device is redefined within Western terms in MGM's Vengeance Valley. Burt Lancaster stars as ranch-hand Owen Daybright, who has been raised as a son by rancher Arch Stroble (Ray Collins). Stroble's natural son Lee (Robert Walker) has always been envious of Owen, who in turn has spent most of his life pulling Lee out of trouble and keeping the boy's misdeeds a secret from the elder Stroble. When Lee fathers an illegitimate child, he tries to shift the responsibility on Owen, leading to a life-threatening confrontation with the vengeance-seeking brothers of the baby's mother (Sally Forrest). There's plenty more plot twists before virtue finally triumphs. Joanne Dru co-stars as Lee's long-suffering wife Jen, who harbors a secret yen for Owen. Since lapsing into public domain, Vengeance Valley has shown up with increasing frequency on cable television; it has also been made available in a narrated version for the visually impaired. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Mio Nome È Shanghai Joe
Director Mario Caiano, best known for the gorgeous horror film Amanti d'Oltretomba, made eleven Westerns in his career, but none as strange as this one. Perhaps it might help some to recall that the TV-series Kung Fu was enjoying great popularity at around the same time employing a similar East-meets-West theme. This film is much more grim and bloody, however, as it tells the tale of a Chinese man (Chen Lee) who travels to San Francisco in 1882. Looking for a better life, all he finds is scum -- racists, perverts, slavers, greedy conmen and mercenaries. Naturally, the gentle mystic must fight to find inner peace. Lee's major weapon -- aside from knives and lethal yo-yos -- is a devastating punch that rams all the way through his opponents' bodies. But that isn't the half of it. A cardshark gets his eyes gouged out in revolting detail, people are beaten to bloody pulp, and the villain of the piece (Klaus Kinski in a fascinating performance) is Scalper Jack, a mincing, sadistic bounty-hunter who tortures and skins his victims alive. A depressing and violent film, this exercise in bloodletting is powerful stuff and well-acted by a veteran cast including Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Claudio Undari and Gordon Mitchell, who also appeared in Caiano's Erik IL Vichingo. Adalberto Albertini made an unfortunate comic sequel the following year with Kinski (in a different role) and Lee. ~ Robert Firsching, Rovi

E Dio disse a Caino
Don't let the title mislead you, this film doesn't come from the Bible Belt; it's actually a western where a trigger-happy quickdraw guy has to draw upon all his talent just to stay alive. ~ Phillip Erlewine, 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

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

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

Keoma
Half-breed Keoma (Franco Nero) returns to his border hometown after service in the Civil War and finds it under the control of Caldwell (Donald O'Brien), an ex-Confederate raider, and his vicious gang of thugs. To make matters worse, Keoma's three half-brothers have joined forces with Caldwell, and make it painfully clear that his return is an unwelcome one. Determined to break Caldwell and his brothers' grip on the town, Keoma partners with his father's former ranch hand (Woody Strode) to exact violent revenge. ~ Paul Gaita, Rovi

Bad Man's River
A Mexican revolutionary offers four marauding outlaws a million bucks to destroy an arsenal owned by the Mexican army. The arsenal gets blasted, but the million bucks doesn't get delivered in this "outsmart the outsmarters" and "double-cross the double-crossers" western saga. ~ Phillip Erlewine, Rovi

Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe Trail, Errol Flynn's third western, has precisely nothing to do with the titular trail. Instead, the film is a simplistic retelling of the John Brown legend, with Raymond Massey playing the famed abolitionist. The events leading up to the bloody confrontation between Brown and the US Army at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, are treated in a painstakingly even-handed fashion: Brown's desire to free the slaves is "right" but his methods are "wrong." Whenever the leading characters are asked about their own feelings towards slavery, the response is along the noncommittal lines of "A lot of people are asking those questions," "I don't have the answer to that," and so forth. Before we get to the meat of the story, we are treated to a great deal of byplay between West Point graduates Jeb Stuart (Flynn) and George Armstrong Custer (Ronald Reagan), who carry on a friendly rivalry over the affections of one Kit Carson Halliday (Olivia DeHavilland). Just so we know that the picture is meant to be a follow-up to Warners' Dodge City and Virginia City, Flynn is saddled with Alan Hale and "Big Boy" Williams, his comic sidekicks from those earlier films. Despite its muddled point of view, Santa Fe Trail is often breathtaking entertainment, excitingly staged by director Michael Curtiz. The film's public domain status has made Santa Fe Trail one of the most easily accessible of Errol Flynn's Warner Bros. vehicles. ~ Hal Erickson, 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

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

Four of the Apocalypse
A vain gambler (Fabio Testi), a pregnant prostitute (Lynne Frederick), a bumbling alcoholic (Michael J. Pollard) and a man who claims to see ghosts (Harry Baird) become unlikely traveling companions in this unusual spaghetti Western from notorious Italian horror director Lucio Fulci. The only survivors of a frontier-town massacre staged to rid the once-lawful town of its overpowering criminal element, the quartet ride the Western trail in a last-ditch bid to reach the next populated area and get back on their feet. Soon drawing the attention of a trigger-happy bandit named Chaco (Tomas Milian), the four cautiously accept him into the fold when Chaco displays a remarkable talent for hunting. When their newfound friend tortures the foursome and leaves them for dead after feeding them hallucinogens, the remaining survivors' desperate bid for survival leads them to take shelter in a ramshackle mining town inhabited only by men of questionable honor. As the birth of her child draws closer, prostitute Bunny (Frederick) looks to suave gambler Stubby (Testi) for the love and support to bring her child into the world. Though the men of the town reluctantly band together to aid Bunny in the birth of her baby, Stubby finds himself torn between the prospect of fatherhood and his unquenchable thirst for revenge against the supremely evil Chaco. ~ Jason Buchanan, 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

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

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

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

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

Captain Apache
A Native American working for the government must investigate the Indian Commissioner's death. Soon he uncovers the schemes of a wealthy land owner and an assassination plot which will further victimize the local natives. ~ Kristie Hassen, Rovi

Run, Man, Run!
A skillful thief with a penchant for knives attempts to outwit a slew of bloodthirsty treasure hunters in this brutal Italian Western from director Sergio Sollima. The gold they seek may be enough to finance the Mexican Revolution -- depending on who gets to it first and what they intend to do with it. Whether it's the thief Cuchillo (Tomas Milian), his passionate fiancée, the sheriff-turned-bounty-hunter, the ruthless bandits, or the fearsome American agents who end up with the gold, two things are certain -- the stakes are high and the competition is literally cutthroat. Run, Man, Run! also features music by Bruno Nicolai and the legendary film composer Ennio Morricone. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Kid Vengeance
One of Cannon Films' two 1976 Italian-Israeli co-productions starring Lee Van Cleef and Leif Garrett (Gianfranco Parolini's Pistola di Dio was the other), this spaghetti western was actually shot in the Middle East by American director Joseph Manduke. Pop star Garrett plays Tom, a teenager who teams with a black gunfighter named Isaac (Jim Brown) to avenge his family. The culprit was McClain (Van Cleef), a sadistic outlaw who carried out the brutal rape-massacre, but his role is minor, as most of the film deals with Tom's maturation and coming to terms with his feelings. Omnipresent 1970s character actors Glynnis O'Connor and John Marley co-star. If there is anything remarkable about Kid Vengeance, it is Francesco Masi's fine musical score, but the film is otherwise anemic. ~ Robert Firsching, 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 Outlaw
Perhaps Hollywood's greatest success du scandal of the 1940s, this odd psychological Western became a box office hit largely thanks to the costuming of leading lady Jane Russell (or, more accurately, its relative absence). Billy the Kid (Jack Buetel) and Doc Holliday (Walter Huston) are close friends until lawman Pat Garrett (Thomas Mitchell) attempts to ambush Billy and put him behind bars. Doc brings Billy to his ranch to hide out, but when Billy meets Doc's mistress Rio (Russell), he's instantly attracted to the buxom beauty. An intense chemistry quickly grows between them, despite the fact that Billy murdered Rio's brother. Billy and Rio secretly marry, but their love runs hot and cold, and soon Billy, Doc, and Rio are fighting among themselves as they're chased through the desert by Garrett and his posse. Director Howard Hawks and screenwriter Ben Hecht both worked on The Outlaw, but they went uncredited after disputes with the legendarily difficult financier (and sometimes producer/director) Howard Hughes, whose battles with the censors resulted in the film spending three years on the shelf before finally gaining wide release in a cut version in 1946. ~ Mark Deming, 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

White Comanche
In this film, the twin sons of a white man and an Indian woman must struggle to overcome both their sibling rivalry and their conflicting identities. ~ Iotis Erlewine, Rovi

Il Grande Duello
Il Grande Duello is the original title of this Italian/French/West German production. The titular duel pits hard-bitten gunslinger Clayton (Lee Van Cleef) against the equally gritty Saxon (Horst Frank). Before this takes place, however, Clayton champions the cause of Newland (Peter O'Brien) a young punk who'd been framed on a murder charge. One of the beauties of the spaghetti western genre is that there were seldom any clearly defined Good or Bad Guys. This helped to keep the audience guessing as to the ultimate outcome of the film, thereby increasing the entertainment value tenfold. ~ Hal Erickson, 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

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

Fistful of Lead
When a bounty hunter watches an Old-West gold heist he sets out after the bandits in hopes of making their loot his. ~ Phillip Erlewine, Rovi

Django Il Bastardo
Sergio Garrone's spaghetti Western The Strangers Gundown tells a tale of revenge. A man known simply as The Stranger (Anthony Steffen) goes about settling old scores with the traitorous military leaders who allowed their entire regimen (a regimen that at the time included The Stranger) to be murdered by the enemy. ~ Perry Seibert, Rovi

Il Cieco
A sightless gunslinger and his "seeing-eye" steed is in charge of safely transporting 50 mail-order brides to an isolated Texas town. Unfortunately, a group of Mexican bandits have their own designs on the women. This comical Italian western follows the attempts of the blind hero to rescue them. By the time he gets there the women have decided that they have had enough of all men. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Se Incontri Sartana Prega Per la Tua Morte
In this western, an engimatic stranger stops a stage from being robbed. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

McLintock!
Sagebrush Trail
So unknown was John Wayne in 1934 that the Variety review of the "B"-western Sagebrush Trail fails to list Wayne in the cast! The second of the Duke's films for Lone Star Productions, this one casts him as an accused killer in search of the real culprit. On the lam from the law, Wayne teams up with gunslinger Lane Chandler, never suspecting that Chandler is the man he is looking for. The relationship between Wayne and Chandler, at first friendly and then adversarial, is handled with more depth than was normal in a quickie western. Also in the cast of Sagebrush Trail is stuntman Yakima Canutt, here cast as Wayne's Indian companion "Yak." ~ Hal Erickson, 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

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