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|Index||23 reviews in total|
Definitely the best of John Wayne's million early films, although the
acting and production values were of the usual B Western standard the
plot was probably more cohesive than usual and more watchable. And
almost believable, too! The Lone Star Saloon in Lone Star Town also had
a good part in this one.
It's pretty obvious who the baddie will turn out to be (yet again!) - you can almost hear the boos from the kids in the audience from the mid-'30's when he makes his appearance, again as a beardless two-faced sidewinder. I assume here that unlike nowadays kids back then knew the difference between good guys and bad guys and right and wrong. Yakima Canutt is playing a Tonto character in here, Wayne is as dashing as always, the chases and ambushes are everything to be desired, in fact especially hair-raising. However, I can't actually remember now Wayne actually packing a Star, if he did he didn't make the same song and dance about it as he did in Rio Bravo! And everything is corny, contrived and creaky - but I love it just the same.
As far as I'm concerned it's a very pleasant way to fill an hour - a lot is "packed" into an hour. If you forced yourself to watch Star Packer in its entirety and found it dreadful you'll never get that hour back, but my friendly observation is you certainly won't like any of Wayne's other films for Lone Star.
Lone Star Productions sure churned them out in the 1930's, and "Star
Packer" has the feel of one of the more rushed ones. John Wayne is U.S.
Marshal John Travers, investigating a crooked hoodlum known only as
"The Shadow", responsible for stealing cattle, stage holdups and the
like, and giving orders from behind the door of a phony wall safe.
Yakima Canutt is Travers' trusty Indian sidekick, appropriately named
as... well, "Yak".
Early on, we find out that Cattlemens Union head Matt Matlock (George pre-Gabby Hayes) is really The Shadow; the dead giveaway is when he offers to buy out his (supposed) niece Anita's half of the Matlock Ranch, since "this is no place for a girl". As Anita, Verna Hillie doesn't have much to do in the film, although in a comic moment, she gets to use a six shooter to blast the butt of one of the villains in a night time scare raid.
There are a few curiosities in the film - for one, Wayne's character alternately rides a white horse and a dark horse in the first half of the film. In what could have been a neat device, a hollowed out tree stump used by a henchman is located right in the middle of the street. And finally, the movie doesn't truly live up to it's name, as Sheriff Travers never wears a badge throughout the film, that is, a star packer without a star.
The horse chases, the runaway stage scenes, the stagecoach off the cliff (another curiosity, the horses conveniently get loose from the stage) are all pretty standard stuff. But John Wayne fans will want to see this one for the charisma he displayed early on in his career. For those more critical, the white kerchiefs worn around the forehead by the good guy posse could only mean that they all had a headache.
As "B' westerns go for this period, this one isn't bad. In fact, in my
opinion, it's one of the best of John Wayne's early "B" westerns. It has
of the right ingredients to make this an enjoyable hour.
First and foremost it has Yakima Canutt just emerging at this time as one of the premier stunt men, performing many of his landmark stunts. There are horse falls, saving the runaway stage, a wagon going over that ever present cliff and a bang up fight scene between Wayne's character and one of the bad guys.
Canutt also has a part in the picture and is a hoot as Wayne's faithful Indian companion "Yak". Wayne himself is better than usual for this time as an undercover government agent. Also. a clean shaven George (pre-Gabby) Hayes appears as the chief villain.
Another oddity for "B" westerns of this time, is that the hero ends up married to the heroine and has a son at the end of the film (no kissing though).
The reason I like these matinée westerns from this era is probably because they make me feel like a kid again but I have other reasons that I think are pretty good. For one thing they are utterly without pretense. They do not pretend to be anything but entertainment for kids and unpretentiousness is real hard to find. There may be some out there but if you look for it you will find that it doesn't grow on trees. And they're just fun. The female lead is always charming, and the horsemanship, these films are always loaded with extras that are real cowboys. Apparently the reduction of manpower needed on the large cattle ranches coincided with the rise of the film industry so all these unemployed cowboys went to Hollywood. And could they ride. They just tore around like a house on fire and the ease and control that they demonstrate with these horses is a wonder to watch for a tenderfoot like me. But the plots get a little monotonous, I think there's only about two of them or three, maybe. You have to kind of overlook that. Anyway Star Packer is no exception. What makes it stand out is for one thing it has George "Gabby" Hayes one of the greatest character actors ever. But the main thing is that it has one of my Hollywood favorites, Pendleton Round-Up Rodeo champion and pioneer stuntman Yakima Canutt. Now John Wayne made a lot of westerns in this era and Yakima Canutt was in every one of them as Wayne's stunt double. He was also in practically every one of the as one of them as one of the bad guys, usually the leader. What makes this movie special is that, as far as I know, this is the only time he ever appears as a good guy.He has a very entertaining part as John Wayne's Tonto-like side kick. This includes an extremely charming and hilarious final scene in which he completely enthralls Wayne's young son with his Indian dancing and attempts to corrupt him into becoming an Indian himself. This is much to the amusement of Wayne and his wife, Verna Hillie. I have noticed that a bunch of these John Waynes have been colorized. My brother won't look at them but I think that as long as I have access to the original, I like having them. The landscapes are particularly beautiful. It's the sound that's bad. They dub in new voices that are terrible. And the music, it's some kind of spaghetti western sounding stuff that has nothing with the charm of the era. View at your peril.
Mystery, excitement, big shootouts, and a hard riding hero. So what
else could a grown-up kid ask for. Yeah, I know it's gotta have a girl,
but at least Wayne doesn't have to kiss her-- what mush!
Great Lone Star action fare. Some good touches-- the river canoe, the white bandannas, and even the dangerous tree stump. George Hayes has a "straight" role here, showing what a talented creation his "Gabby" was. Okay, I didn't know it then, but those are "trip wires" that make the horse go hind-quarters over head. They made for thrilling spills, but they often broke legs and we know what happens then. I'm really glad the business was made to wise up and quit them. A lot of 30's Westerns had mystery-man masterminds behind the bad guys. This one does too. But he's hardly a secret since they tip his hand early.
Anyway, I gladly plunked down my dime in those B Western days and still think those are the best dimes I ever spent.
Pretty fair oater from the Duke's early years has some unusual casting. Yakima Canutt has his idea of some "skookum fun" as a good guy for a change from his normal villainous role, and Gabby Hayes plays against type as the bad guy. Canutt's part would seem to be an early model for another famous Indian buddy of a lawman, namely that of "Tonto." (Note also the Duke's horse could pass for "Silver.") As a resident from the same part of Yakima Canutt's home state, I was pleasantly surprised when Wayne as Travers identifies one of the Shadow's gang as a "lifer from Walla Walla" which is the site of Washington's maximum security state prison. Incidentally, Walla Walla is about an hour and a half's drive from Colfax, where Canutt was raised, and whose hometown he shares with Turner Classic Movies' host Robert Osborne. Fellow gangster Loco Frank, shown in the same scene, turns out to be Glenn Strange, who later had a famous role as Kitty's bartender in "Gunsmoke." The action scenes are not particularly outstanding, although the climactic chase scene is very distinctive involving the villain's canoe being chased downriver by the Duke on horseback. Although the title's a misnomer in that the Duke is never seen with a badge, that's the biggest fault in what I'd otherwise heartily recommend for something a bit out of the ordinary in the Duke's apprentice stage of his career. Dale Roloff
This is a real B movie, right down to the historical imprecision of a
location featuring both stage coaches and telephones, its clichéd
dialogue, a totally predictable plot straight out of the comics and
enough protracted chases and gunfights to fill in the gaps left by a
very thin script.
The Duke and his entourage provide plenty of ironic laughs but, if you want to take the movie at face value, it is quite enjoyable. The good guys win, the bad guys get their comeuppance, the Duke gets his gal and Yakima Canutt shows his tricks all in a setting that engrossed generations of schoolboys over most of the 20th century.
The Star Packers should also be of interest to students of cinema as its structure encapsulates the early movement of silent film into the talkies.
This is an early John Wayne oater. It is very typical for that era. John Wayne, of course, plays the good guy and a lawman, and Yakima Canute, who is in a ton of John Wayne's early movies, usually as a bad guy, plays a good guy for a change. even it it is a very stereotypical Indian sidekick, (insensitive by today's politically correct idiots). Of course this movie is in black and white, since color was still on the horizon, so some of the video does leave a bit to be desired but I did and still do enjoy the good guy versus bad guy movies where most things are pretty clear. I also like his later movies that had a bit more suspense.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched the beginning twice, could NOT make sense of it, and it
bothered me for the whole movie.
So, work this out with me: Wayne (the GOOD guy) jumps on the stagecoach, disarms the drivers (!), steals the money (?!), and takes off.
Disarmed, one driver is then killed and the other wounded by the bad guys. Thanks to Wayne, who disarmed them, and then watched it happen.
Then Wayne drops the money in the dirt, rescues the girl, rides into town, chuckles it up with Yak (too bad about the dead guy, I guess)...and then later says he "found" the money back at the scene. And everyone's okay with that.
And he's the good guy? And I'm pretty sure there weren't small, hand-held flashlights at the time. And Bell did his first phone demo in 1876... were they in houses then? Am I thinking too hard about this one? Normally, I'm happy to suspend judgment to enjoy a movie, but this one bothered me. And that's a sign the move didn't really work for me.
Mediocre oater with some impressive stunt work and a fairly confusing script. Assuming they actually used a script. John Wayne plays a marshal out to break up a gang of bandits led by the not-that-mysterious Shadow (Gabby Hayes). Stunt man extraordinaire Yakima Canutt does the stunts and plays the role of Wayne's Indian friend. As a stuntman, he's quite good. As an actor, he's a good stuntman. The plot to this one's a mess. Wayne's character causes the death of an innocent man and doesn't seem to care. The movie never even addresses it! Only worth checking out if you're a Wayne completist. Otherwise, pass this one up.
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