|Index||6 reviews in total|
The likable Gene Autry and a good story make this a worthwhile B-Western
spite of a pace that is rather slow at times. The story starts with a
shooting in the middle of a dice game, and when Gene thinks the sheriff is
accusing the wrong man, he has to perform a difficult balancing act.
wants to find out who the real killer was, and why he did it, but he also
has to stay on the good side of both the sheriff and the rather excitable
suspect, who does not always appreciate Autry's help.
It's a scenario with some good possibilities, and as it unfolds, they get some decent mileage out of the situation. Chill Wills gets a couple of good moments as the sheriff, and Barbara Britton is lively as the suspect's loyal sister. Overall, it's better than average for a B-Western.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an action-packed Autry movie that lets Gene ride, rescue, sing and romance. Gene is more than ready to clear a young hothead, Larry Evans(Russell Arms),of charges of murder and find the real killer. Of course there is time romance Larry's pretty sister, Mary(Barbara Britton). Gene helps the young man hide in the cabin of an old prospector(Clem Bevans), while he uncovers who did the dastardly deed. There's loads of action and an array of music, with Gene crooning with the Cass County Boys: "When the Bloom is on the Sage", "Pretty Mary" and the title song being the best. The cast also features: Jack Holt, Robert Shayne, Leon Weaver and a real good performance from Chill Wills.
This film was one of Autry's Columbia features that was edited for television. When it opens, Autry is riding Champ in a long shot and you can just barely hear him singing until he gets closer to the camera. I dubbed the song from his soundtrack CD album of movie songs, and right at the beginning, you can hear a gunshot. It probably was like that on the edited film I saw, but the card game is not shown only referred to throughout the film, until Gene recreates the game at the end of the picture, causing the villain to make his escape on a stagecoach conveniently parked outside. When Melody Ranch Theater aired on the Nashville network, I wondered if they ever showed the complete version or just the one that was already available to television. I always did like the song and recall it was used in the background when they did a documentary on the TV westerns of the Fifties, showing Chuck Conners spin his rifle, etc.
Not one of Autry's better entries from the post-war period. With
Columbia Pictures' backing, the result should have been better than it
is. Gene is chasing after fugitive Russell Arms to clear him of murder
charges before a vengeful posse can catch up. It's a novel idea for an
Autry Western since almost all the screen time is taken up with the
three parties playing tag with one another. However, the script has
trouble integrating the mystery part into the chase. So we get passages
like Gene and Arms watering their horses with Gene saying to Larry
(Arms) something like "By the way, Larry, where were you standing when
the shots were fired?", and then riding off. Ten minutes later, we get
a similarly disconnected question with a similarly fleeting answer.
It's like trying to follow a bread-crumb trail where the crumbs are a
mile apart. With a different, better integrated, approach the two plot
angles could have really gelled into a single current of suspense and
excitement. I know, some will say this is, after all, only a matinée
Western, so why expect more. But it's also a time when Autry was trying
to break the matinée formula. With a better script, this entry could
have equaled the superiority of contemporaries like Sioux City Sue or
Trail to San Antone.
What Loaded Pistols does have is the sparkling and gorgeous Barbara Britton, whose smile could light up a city block. Too bad her career never equaled her talent. Also, the comic relief is down-played and comes from the nimble Chill Wills instead of the annoying Sterling Holloway. Then too, I like the way the songs are integrated into menial tasks, such as fixing breakfast, instead of the usual, more elaborate production numbers. I know many Autry fans object to anything negative about his movies. Nonetheless, I don't think Columbia Studios served him as well here as they did in other productions.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Right out of the gate, this one had the feel of something different for
an Autry film; he was co-billed along with Barbara Britton at the top
of the credits which probably didn't sit too well with Champion.
However Champ got a trade-off with some extra screen time whenever
someone other than Gene tried to ride him. All Gene had to do was
The film opens with a common enough set-up for the era using the old lights out, gunshot in the dark trick that keeps everyone guessing who murdered rancher Ed Norton. I have to admit, that name kept me distracted throughout reminding me of Ralph Kramden's sidekick. Who would have known?
As with most of Gene's pictures, there's a liberal sprinkling of tunes throughout, including the title song which adds 'loaded dice' to the mix. All of them are solos by Gene without the help of a Smiley Burnette or a back up group, except for the one at the 'sociable' - 'The Boy From Texas'. This picture finally answered the question for me whether there was ever a polka played in a Western other than the Charles Starrett flick "Snake River Desperadoes" from 1951. At least they called it a polka, and it was close but just a bit too generic for my Polish ear.
For once, Gene didn't really have a sidekick or partner in one of his pictures. The closest this one had was Chill Wills as the Nortonville sheriff Cramer, and it was curious to me why he confiscated Gene's pistol every time they got together. The sheriff's gimmick was a golden toothpick given to him by Governor Hanley which he enjoyed enough to bring it up more than a couple of times.
Gene has a gimmick I've never seen before when he uses a silk handkerchief spread on the ground in order to 'pick up sound' when he puts his ear to it. He called it an old Indian trick, but I've never seen an old Indian do that before. The better trick occurred right after Gene threw Mary (Britton) in the pond when she fell off her horse and was 'knocked out'. By the time she catches up to Gene chasing her brother Larry (Russell Arms) on horseback, her hair and clothes are already dry!
Loaded Pistols one of the early films Gene Autry made for Columbia
Pictures finds Gene in one of his few films without a sidekick. I guess
he left Smiley Burnette over at Republic with Herbert J. Yates.
Autry has his hands full in this one. Someone got Russell Arms to put up his pistol during a crap game and when the lights went conveniently out one of the other participants in the game was dead. Quite frankly anyone during the darkness could have picked up that gun and fired it, but Jack Holt and Robert Shayne have their own reasons for wanting to see Arms get the blame and they whip up public sentiment against him.
Although no one would have blamed him from walking away from the situation Gene sticks his neck out for Arms. Not that Arms is looking for help in fact he and his sister Barbara Britton are more of a hindrance than a help to Autry. But Barbara Britton who was one of the most beautiful actresses ever to appear on the screen is more than enough reason for Gene to stick it out.
Chill Wills is also in this film as a foxy sheriff who doesn't quite believe the neat frame that Holt and Shayne have put Arms in, but he's not about to buck public opinion.
Loaded Pistols is a bit too long by about 15 minutes. Still it's a competently made B film that Gene Autry fans were pleased with in 1948 and today.
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