Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rare Westerns on Netflix Instant Watch Capsule Reviews, vol.11

Border River (1954)

Joel McCrea is a confederate soldier that comes to a shady U.S./Mexico border town in order to buy arms and supplies for the confederacy using $2 million in gold stolen from the union. Curiously, Joel is portrayed as an honest hero, but I guess any confederate or union soldier that stars in a classic movie set during the civil war is going to be portrayed as heroic. Anyway, the sleazy Mexican general that runs the town catches wind of Joel’s plans, and seeks to find the gold. Meanwhile, buxom senorita Carmelita (that might be Spanish for “little caramel candy”), played by Yvonne DeCarlo, comes between the two men. Fairly uninteresting, except for the accidental political subtext and Yvonne’s saucy fake Mexican ways.

Excellent color transfer, and only previously available on VHS in the U.S. (although released on DVD in Spain). Joel McCrea also stars in the rare western Black Horse Canyon (1954), which was never released on home video and is on Netflix instant.

Wyoming Mail (1950)

Steve is a tough-as-nails boxer (aren’t they all) who is hired to go undercover to infiltrate a group of bandits who rob mail-carrying trains. In order to learn about the gang’s whereabouts, Steve has to get himself sent to one of those prisons where you are forced to break rocks with a sledgehammer (I guess the prison sells off the pieces as Pet Rocks to easily duped locals). He then has to get himself sent to solitary confinement, chained in a dark concrete hole with a dude that knows the gang’s whereabouts (well, that’s technically not solitary confinement, but close enough). He then has to develop a relationship of sorts with this guy and then engineer a prison break (with some outside help) where both he and the “informant” can escape together whilst being shot at. This is all done by Steve as a ruse to gain the prisoner’s confidence and respect so that he’ll reveal the gang’s location. That’s a lot of trouble to go through to see to it that people get their letters. Personally, I wouldn’t have bothered. Then again, I’ve probably been spoiled by e-mail.

“Wyoming Mail” is probably the most boring movie title in history, and the plot itself is essentially the standard B-western scenario where the hero goes undercover and joins a gang of outlaws to bring them down, but there are some nifty touches (like the gang’s cool cavern hang out) and pleasantly absurd plot developments (like the ones I gave away earlier). Look for Alexis Smith (previously in Cave of Outlaws, which I reviewed earlier) as Steve’s singing bombshell girlfriend, and Gene Evans in a small part as one of the gang members who unwisely engages Steve in fisticuffs in a bar. If you’re gonna pick on somebody in a bar by punching them in the face for no reason, I suggest choosing someone who looks like he is absolutely, positively not a boxer.

Solid color transfer with some specks and scratches, and never released on home video.

The Navajo Kid (1945)

Bob Steele’s Navajo father is murdered during a robbery, and he is shocked to learn that he was actually adopted, and that his real parents were white people that were murdered by Apaches. You’d think a white cowboy would figure out that he isn’t actually an Indian, but maybe he doesn’t own a mirror. Anyway, he goes off to avenge the murder, eventually finding a man who is wearing his foster father’s ring and beating him up in a pretty sweet speeded up saloon fight. However, he has an airtight alibi (I don’t know why alibis need to be free of air, but whatever), but this eventually leads him to the killers. Steele ain’t much of an actor (to put it mildly), and for a movie an hour long, this really doesn’t get going until halfway through. However, there are some refreshing out-of-left-field twists and amusing speeded up action.

Okay transfer is blown out but watchable. Steele made movies as a member of “The Trailblazers” (not the basketball team dumbass) and also as the “Three Mesquiteers” (not the dudes with swords sillypants). He also starred in some other rare westerns that are on Netflix Instant:

Ambush Trail (1946) – never released on home video
Rio Grande Raiders (1946) – co-starring with Sunset Carson, never released on home video

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