surprising Pete Morrison silent-western, many fine elements
No question about it--like Black director Oscar Micheaux (and others such as, say, Louis Gasnier and Charles Hutchison), Victor Adamson was a much better silent director than sound director. Films such as this one and the much different OLD OREGON TRAIL are quite interesting and thoughtful for z-grade genre product. First of all, PIONEER'S GOLD has a large and interesting cast of characters. Spottiswoode Aitken, looking like a long-haired 80 year old John Kerry after a long weekend, is an old man who is isolated and lonely and thinks of the woman he loved long ago. He finds her daughter, a schoolmarm (or "school ma'am" as the titles call her), and offers her an inheritance if she marries his nephew (the son of his long lost brother) whom he hasn't seen for many years. A crook named "The Fox" who steals mail shipments, steals the letter to the nephew offering him this deal, and then poses as the nephew...and then the schoolmarm is kidnapped by a woman crook (who is part of a wild psychotic hillbilly family that could have been out of the pages of a Flannery O'Connor story--Merrill McCormick, always colorful as a bad guy, plays a grotesque member of this family who reminds me of Brad Dourif at his most off-the-wall in some weird indie horror film), who then poses as her! Leading man Pete Morrison I'm most familiar with through his later supporting roles. I'd describe him as a mix between pre-1931 Rex Lease with a twist of pre-1933 Lyle Talbot. He's an interesting looking man and I hope to see some more of his starring roles (any b-western fan has seen him in early sound westerns in supporting roles). His riding skills are superb and he has a natural screen presence and is good at projecting any number of moods. Running at about 62 minutes, PIONEER'S GOLD is a much better film than it needed to be as a piece of low-budget-western product, and has a complexity to it and a rich array of supporting characters. Bravo to Victor Adamson. How could this be the same man who made THE ADVENTURES OF Texas JACK or THE RAWHIDE TERROR???
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