A Rin-Tin-Tin serial presented in 12 episodes. The mysterious Wolf Man is terrorizing settlers in a western town. With the help of Rinty, young Jimmy Carter unmasks the Wolf Man and foils ...
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A Rin-Tin-Tin serial presented in 12 episodes. The mysterious Wolf Man is terrorizing settlers in a western town. With the help of Rinty, young Jimmy Carter unmasks the Wolf Man and foils his evil plot. Written by
Herman Seifer <email@example.com>
This was Rin-Tin-Tin's last film and i believe that he was about 13 years old at the time. He is not an expressive dog actor like Higgins ("Benji") or Skippy (Asta in "The Thin Man") and yet there is something rather grand about him, even in old age, with a grizzled grey muzzle that no one bothered to dye, the way they would have had he been a human actor. In one of the early scenes, a cowboy bystander calls him "Old Timer," with no attempt to hide his age, and indeed there is a kind of elegiac quality to his work, like the latter day James Garner, whom he much resembles, in a spiritual sense. Rinty is a superlative schutzhund (trained attack dog) and many of his best scenes feature him jumping and wrestling humans to the ground or running after horses at the gallop. At least one (and maybe two) younger, darker-pelted stunt doubles are used for some of the long running scenes, but Rinty takes all the close-ups. He always did suffer from "trainer eye" (looking for cues from his off-camera trainer), but not being food-motivated, he never blew a scene by nuzzling for his hidden treat the way Skippy did. I actually teared up a little at seeing the old guy put through the rigour of being trapped in a mine shaft when the door gets blown off by dynamite. The human actors were expecting the loud pyrotechnics, but Rinty was not, and he was obviously on a "hard stay," so when the blast went off, he jumped and turned in place, torn between fear and the "stay" command. He looked terrified, and i think he was actually tied down with an off-camera leash to restrain him from bolting. Sweetly, his essential good nature and willingness to please asserts itself at the conclusion of every fight scene, when, after apparently half-killing his human sparring partner, he is called off by Frankie Darro or George Brent, then breaks character to stand around with a big smile on his face, wag-wag-wagging his tail: "Was i good? Did i do that right? Am i a good dog?" What a trooper!
Yakima Canutt is the unspoken 2nd star of this feature, of course. He plays a minor character but also supplies the remuda and doubles for almost every actor in the film who does a horse transfer, bucking bronc stunt, or -- Yak's specialty -- the stagecoach stunt. This film presents a variation on the latter with an open buckboard and six horses instead of the usual four. Strangely, the rear pair are white, the only time i've seen Yak use white horses in this stunt; the front four are his usual browns. In addition to the stage coach team, the horse i call "Yak's Big White" (the stunt double for Gene Autry's Champion), a cute fat brown pony for Frankie Darro to use in a flying mount, a half dozen randomly great cow ponies, and a trained bucking bronc, there are four or five fine Indian Paint ponies, including "the one with a white neck and brown head." (If you watch Yak's stunts, you'll know which horse i mean -- he was in many dozens of movies, and Yak always made sure he turned his right side to the camera (his "good side" -- very beautifully marked) during Indian attack scenes.
Frankie Darro was a fine kid actor. Like other reviewers, i also love his young adult films co-starring with Mantan Moreland -- but here we see him in top gymnastic form, carrying a reasonable amount of his own weight in stunt work. His greatest drawback at this age is a certain staginess in close-ups, but since the film is a Western, we don't see much of that "mush." I really dug the scene of Frankie making a getaway on a chubby brown pony -- the scene is played straight, and Frankie is in top form, but i laughed to see the pony scramble to keep up with the larger horses.
Georgia Hale, the romantic interest, deserves a quick mention too -- her split-skirt culotte riding garb, with matching vest and silk bandanna, is extremely cute. Both she and Theordore Lorch, who plays her father, carry the baggage of silent film mannerisms, but she is an appealing and spunky actress and looks more than right in the part of the Sheriff's adopted daughter.
The Alpha Video print has better sound than other versions, but there are a number of annoyingly chopped up bits, including some mangled chapter endings, dropped words, and overly-dark scenes -- which, as far as a i know, are found in every version currently on the market. Still, i'm glad i saw this film, and i recommend it without reservation to anyone who likes animal actors and stunt work.
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