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The Railroad Must Go Through!

7/10
Author: (bsmith5552@rogers.com) from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
21 May 2005

"Winners of the West" is a winning 13 chapter serial from Universal Pictures directed by veterans Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor. Universal was probably the largest of the studios producing chapter-plays at this time. As such the production values usually exceeded those of their competitors and they had ready access to a vast storehouse of stock footage from their previous productions, some dating back to the silent days.

In the 1930s, Universal starred Johnny Mack Brown in four serials as an "all in black" hero. The wardrobe was obviously used so that the hero would match whatever stock footage that was used.

In this one Dick Foran takes over as the "all in black" hero Jeff Ramsay. The story involves Ramsay's efforts to get the Great Hartford Transcontinental Railroad through Hellgate Pass. Along with pals Jim Jackson (James Craig) and Tex Houston (Tom Fadden), Jeff strives to overcome all obstacles placed in his path by the notorious King Carter (Harry Woods) and his gang. Carter is determined to drive the railroaders away.

Carter along with his cohort Snakeye (Charles Stevens) incite the local Indian tribe under Chief War Eagle (Chief Yowlachie) to raid the railroad camp. The head of the railroad John Hartford (Edward Keane) just happens to have a beautiful young daughter Claire (Anne Nagel) who keeps getting in the way and winds up getting kidnapped at one point.

Over the course of 13 thrilling chapters Ramsay and his pals manage to get into the usual array of chapter ending cliff hangers only to escape just in the nick of time. Here the directors cheated a little. For example, at the end of one chapter Ramsay is shot at point blank range by two bad guys and falls to the floor. In the next chapter he rises from the floor without a scratch. Later in that same chapter he also escapes without a scratch from a cave-in when a mine passage collapses right on top of him. Oh well, what Saturday matinée 10 year old kid would have noticed or even cared as long as the hero lived to fight another day.

Of course needless to say Jeff and the side of righteousness wins out in the final chapter and all live happily ever after.

This serial boasts one of the finest array of bad guys ever to grace a "B" western. Besides Woods (one of the best of the "B" heavies) and Charlie Stevens (who was a grandson of the famous Apache Chief, Geronimo), the gang includes such notables as Trevor Bardette as the creepy Raven and Edmond Cobb, Roy Barcroft, Edgar Edwards, Bud Osborne and Tom London as various henchmen. Also making brief appearances are the likes of Bob Kortman, Ed Cassidy, Kermit Maynard, Bud Osborne and Iron Eyes Cody.

Dick Foran would make only one more serial for Universal, the all-star million dollar serial "Riders of Death Valley" in 1941.

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