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There is a special energy about this old oater that still works for
this cowpoke. It's success at the time of release can be measured by
the fact 'The 3 Ms' was the opening entry in a beloved series of 51
westerns made by Republic Pictures until 1943. It captures the
camaraderie of the trio western concept that was copied by not a few
Poverty Row producers over the next decade. Locations are the real and
expansive west, not the boulder-strewn hills of the San Fernando Valley
of Republic's later output. The landslide sequence is a true white
knuckler. The characters might be stale for today's youngsters but for
their time they were original, fresh and, above all, tightly drawn.
They were borrowed unabashedly by William Colt McDonald, creator of the
book Mesquiteers, from Alexandre Dumas's trio of King's Musketeers.
A B-western director like Mack Wright knew how to establish men of action and good humour in right quick fashion. The movie has the "all for one and one for all" dynamic down pat. The plot mixes the Mesquiteers, in from a long stretch of cattle punchin', with a group of First World War vets bent on homesteadin'. The Mesquiteers are vets, too, and the bond is instant, abetted by a vet's sister to draw Stony Brooke's eye. This device made B westerns magical, melding a mythical west of cowboys on horses with technology like automobiles and telephones. All done without a single note of self consciousness. As a kid I believed such a hybrid west really existed somewhere in the great undefined American southwest. The villains are cattle men not partial to squatters, even if the nesters have served their country. That makes the villains all the more heinous, which they prove in a scene guaranteed to boil your blood. That's followed by a funeral guaranteed to wet yur hankie. As an adult the Mesquiteers still resonate with this unrepentant rescue-ridin', maiden-savin' do gooder.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's safe to say that this is not what I was expecting for the first
film in the Three Mesquiteers series. It eventually turns into a
Western of course, but first it focuses on returning American vets from
the trenches of World War I, and how handicapped soldiers would cope
with reintegration into normal society. The dialog among wounded and
amputated servicemen at the start of the picture lends a poignant
resonance to the film that permeates throughout. It's fair to say that
a certain patriotism welled up in this viewer while watching the story,
trusting that the sacrifices that these veterans made for their country
would be rewarded to some degree by virtue of the homestead opportunity
made available by the government.
The Three Mesquiteers connection is not a given from the start however. Stony Brooke (Robert Livingston) and Tucson Smith (Ray Corrigan) are a pair of cowhands who come upon Lullaby Joslin (Syd Saylor) in a San Juan Basin saloon where he's arrived to scout out the locale for the arriving settlers. The locals, led by the Canfield Brothers (J.P. McGowan and Al Bridge), are determined to stop the vets before they even have a chance to get started. In the first set of fisticuffs in the picture, Tucson takes on henchman Bull (John Merton) in a lively brawl accentuated by the piano player who up-tempo's his playing with the action on screen. Very effective for this early oater.
For his part, Lullaby is the go to guy the vets trusted to make the decision to go West in the first place. His gimmick is a motor bike and side car that's effective for this picture, as he leads the rest of the troopers in their more traditional buckboard wagons. Interestingly, this was Saylor's only appearance as a Mesquiteer. He was replaced by Max Terhune in the next picture of the franchise, "Ghost Town Gold". Terhune continued the part of Lullaby Joslin, and was given a ventriloquist dummy named Elmer to bring a comic relief role to the series.
You rarely ever have a tearjerker moment in a B Western, but this one comes close. One of the veterans, Bob Bryant (Gene Marvey) offers an operatic rendition of 'Home on the Range' in an early scene, but eventually falls victim to the bad guys. His burial is given military honors with the traditional playing of Taps, and he's laid to rest with the strains of 'Home on the Range' in the background. Again, a unique and interesting meld of old fashioned patriotism and B Western flavor.
The early Mesquiteers films were a high priority for Republic Pictures, even though they later shifted to the singing cowboy format initiated by Gene Autry, followed by Roy Rogers. Still, the Mesquiteers series continued until 1943 with a revolving cast that came to include such Western luminaries as John Wayne, Bob Steele, and Tom Tyler. But it all started here with "The Three Mesquiteers", eventually totaling an impressive run of fifty one pictures.
This western is very special, specially when you realize it was made not
many years after it takes place.
It shows soldiers that fought in world war one,looking for a new
to live, and going to New Mexico where they are not welcomed by the
Anyhow, two cowboys decide to help them.
They arrive driving cars, and one guy has a motorcycle with a side
The first thing the cowboys tell them is to get rid of the cars and
horses and wagons.
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