When Tasker kills Roy Rogers he takes one of his young sons. Fifteen years later the other son Roy arrives buying a ranch in the valley where Tasker now controls the water supply. Roy organizes the ranchers for a showdown with Tasker not knowing that his brother is Tasker's chief henchman. Written by
Maurice VanAuken <email@example.com>
Above-average Roy Rogers western co-starring Don Barry
SAGA OF DEATH VALLEY (1939) is a lean, action-packed B-western about a land grabber in a generic ranch valley (no relation to the real Death Valley) who comes up against a new ranch owner who's willing to fight back. Roy Rogers stars as Roy Rogers, whose father owned the Circle R Ranch and was killed by land baron Ed Tasker (Frank M. Thomas) when Roy was an adolescent. Tasker had snatched Roy's younger brother, Tim, and raised him to be an outlaw, leading raids on other ranchers' stock and forcing all the ranchers in Death Valley to pay protection to Tasker. When Roy comes back to the valley as an adult he forms the Death Valley Riders to combat Tasker's efforts. This gets him into a confrontation with his own brother, although neither knows their family connection. Roy also hooks up with Ann, his childhood sweetheart (played by Doris Day, an actress who left movies five years before the more famous Doris Day turned up at Warner Bros. in 1948). Because of the complicated family history at the root of the film's drama there is a richer subtext than usual for a Rogers western and a more tragic ending.
The film is beautifully photographed by Republic Pictures house cameraman Jack Marta, much of it on location in the area around Lone Pine, California in the foothills of the Sierras. The action is fast and furious and the cast includes lots of Republic Pictures regulars, most notably Gabby Hayes as Roy's ranch foreman. Donald Barry plays Jerry, who's secretly Roy's brother Tim. Barry would next co-star as Jesse James with Roy in DAYS OF JESSE JAMES (1939) and went on to forge a notable career as a B-western star in his own right. He didn't sing and had a darker quality than most western heroes, making him, in all likelihood, the first B-western anti-hero.
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