Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rare Westerns on Netflix Instant Watch Capsule Reviews, vol.22

Old Oklahoma Plains (1952)

The army is using a large stretch of land to test a super mini-tank, and this is annoying the locals, especially a ranch owner who supplies the Army with horses, and is therefore screwed if they use tanks instead. It is up to singing cowboy Rex Allen and friends (including Slim Pickens) to protect the testing site from the ranch owner and his gang, while seeing to it that a race between the tank and a bunch of horses through a minefield (!) goes off without a hitch. You see, if the tank beats a bunch of horses in a race through a minefield, the public will start to realize that horses are inferior to tanks and they'll stop trying to sabotage the Army. I guess that makes sense. The director is William Whitney, famous for his wild stunts in B-westerns and serials. While the movie lacks the crazy stunts (good stunts, but not crazy), it’s certainly a batshit crazy variation on the “horse race to save the ranch” kiddee plot, and the little tank looks pretty cool. An oddity well worth checking out.

A very good transfer, and never released on home video. Rex Allen stars in some other rare westerns on Netflix instant:

Hills of Oklahoma (1950, never released on home video)
The Arizona Cowboy (1950, never released on home video)
Rodeo King and the Senorita (1951, previously released on VHS)
Silver City Bonanza (1951, previously released on VHS)
Old Overland Trail (1953, never released on home video)
Iron Mountain Trail (1953, previously released on VHS)
Shadows of Tombstone (1953, previously released on VHS)
Phantom Stallion (1954, previously released on VHS)

Romance of the West (1946)

Eddie Dean is an Indian liason, hanging out with Chief Eagle Feather and friends on their reservation (Coincidentally, there was an Eagle Feather in Comin’ Round the Mountain too). Eddie explains how these are good people who worship the earth, and he gives them gifts, like cattle and a pilgrim hat. However, his town government gets together and decides to hire outcast Indians to commit crimes, in order to pin the crimes on Eagle Feather’s tribe to get them kicked off their land so they can come in and steal silver reserves. What a bunch of scumbags. Even worse, they immediately send their white cronies out to the reservation and start shooting indiscriminately, killing the lovely Indian girl Eddie was just befriending. She now has an orphan son that Eddie adopts and makes a cowboy. So, Eddie investigates and takes care of the crooked white villains while taking time out to sing some pretty good songs. Despite being cheap and stagey, Eddie excels as the truly heroic and sensitive hero (more so with the script), and the script also has a villain plot more developed and interesting than usual.

Probably one of the few PRC westerns of the 40’s to be shot in color (I haven’t heard of very many PRC movies being shot in color period), and never released on home video. Unfortunately, it's no longer on Netflix.

Cheyenne Takes Over (1947)

Lash LaRue, the bullwhip toting, Bogart looking man-in-black and his sidekick Fuzzy investigate the El Lobo ranch, and find out from local saloon owner Nancy Yates that the owner of the ranch may have killed a man in her bar, but no body has been found. Lash and Fuzzy investigate, even lying to get on the actual ranch to snoop around, and occasionally Lash kicks some ass. Although it takes a while to get going, it’s a fairly twisty and well done detective variation on an “evil rancher” B-western, and Lash is certainly one of the coolest B western heroes ever.

Previously available on VHS, but no longer on Netflix.

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