|Index||7 reviews in total|
With special effects limited to obvious filming before a projected background, this is an enjoyable Gene Autry vehicle. The songs are not memorable and bump jarringly against the tragic subplot involving Joe. The "West that never was" is as surprising as in the parallel Roy Roger's outings: airplanes and buscadero holsters, fancy Hollywood cowboy gear and references to World war II, a movie Wild West ethic and DDT spraying! By the good guys! Patricia White/Barry is so luminously beautiful that it is surprising her career, while commendable, was not more stellar. It is a treat to see Clayton Moore as a villain, though a bit of a shock to hear the voice of the Lone Ranger coming out of the face of a half-bearded bad guy. Great movie, great Western it is not; pleasant nostalgia it is.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Riders of the Whistling Pines" is a cool sounding title, and the story
itself is not your run of the mill Western. Set in 'modern' times so to
speak, automobiles and airplanes are very much in evidence, and there's
even a reference to World War II. After being exonerated for the
accidental death of a forestry agent, Gene Autry's character is ready
to give up his newly formed sportsmen's club and move away. However
when his singing buddies (The Cass County Boys) admit they tampered
with his rifle sight, Gene decides to stick around to find out if the
death of Charles Carter might have been murder.
It seems to me that Gene found himself on the wrong side of an environmental issue in this one though. He repeatedly defended the use of DDT to control a larval outbreak that threatened the forest, and by extension, the area's logging industry. Every time he stated that the spray was safe for animals and fish, he sounded like an apologist for the chemical industry. If filmed today, Gene might have turned out to be the villain of the piece instead of lumber company owner Henry Mitchell (Douglas Dumbrille). Instead, Mitchell employed two henchmen to do his dirty work, one of them being a virtually unrecognizable Clayton Moore hiding behind an unkempt beard.
No matter how tough things get, there's always plenty of time for a passel of songs, and for a film coming in at just over an hour, Gene knocks out five tunes while the Cass County Boys add another; and let's not forget the tune by the Pinnafores trio.
For this viewer, there was a major sit up and take notice moment near the end of the story. When Gene sets up Mitchell with word that his buddy Joe will be able to identify the man who shot him, Mitchell and his boys make for Gene's camp to do away with him. Mitchell shoots who he thinks is Gene in a rocking chair on the porch, but it turns out to be a life size dummy of Gene! Now why would Gene Autry have one of those???
This is an unusual Gene Autry film because it really is NOT a western.
It is set out in the western United States but aside from that and the
presence of a few horses, it's not at all what you'd expect from Autry.
This is not really a complaint--just an observation about the type of
film it is.
When the film begins, Gene has just left the rangers. No, not the type they have from Texas--FOREST rangers. In recognition of his work, they gave him a rifle and Gene uses it to kill a mountain lion that isn't doing anyone any harm. However, at the same time, a baddie shoots another ranger--and Gene assumes his errant shot killed the guy! Well, this plot actually was resolved reasonably quickly and folks realized Gene wasn't a killer--though they didn't catch the baddie responsible until late in the film.
The same jerk-face that killed the ranger is also trying to take advantage of an outbreak of moths that will destroy the timber industry. So, when Gene comes up with a plan to use crop dusters and the miracle pesticide DDT, this evil jerk starts poisoning animals and blaming Gene! What's next? See the film.
This is a reasonably entertaining B-movie. It's also of particular interest to music historians, as in addition to Gene's contributions to early country music, there also is some very early gospel music in this one. Overall, worth seeing if you are a fan.
Scenic Autry western with a few surprises. The plot is a little complex
for me, and I had trouble keeping some of the look-alike characters
straight. But that's probably just me. Anyhow, the story involves
aerial spraying of DDT and who stands to gain or lose. In that
surprising sense, the movie involves contemporary environmental issues,
even in 1949. The 70-minutes is also notable for there being no Autry
sidekick (Burnette or Buttram) for comedy relief. So it's pretty much
straight melodrama the whole way.
Then too, as leading lady, there's the luscious Patricia Barry who later went on to a pretty extensive TV career, along with familiar baddie Douglass Dumbrille, and future Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore, in a supporting role. Also, catch that very last scene, an unusually thoughtful one for a horse opera of any kind. All in all, it adds up to a different kind of Autry programmer with more noisy winged conveyances than Gene's usual 4-footed friends.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Gene Autry's movies are so much more complex than Tex Ritter or Ken
Maynard, and it is hard not to admire the way that his movies have more
explicit social messages. This movie is particularly intriguing because
it is both pro-environment and pro-DDT. Remember, this was 1949, and
Rachel Carson's Silent Spring came out in 1962, in part a reaction to
the fire ant eradication program of 1957. Not only was DDT seen as a
boon to forest management, but the previous year (1948) its inventor
won a Nobel Prize for "for his discovery of the high efficiency of
At the core of this movie is an effort to control an infestation by aerial spraying, similar to the fire ant eradication effort a decade later. It is also about a lumber company's effort to first hide the infestation and then sabotage the spraying, so as to make a fortune harvesting the diseased trees. So, DDT is used by protectors of the forest, but the ones intent on letting a natural infestation decimate the forest to profit are trying to convince the farmers that DDT is killing their livestock. One of the townsfolk even says something like "once it gets in the fish, then it gets in everything..."
Which all goes to show that what is environmentally sound changes as our understanding of nature changes. Autry keeps insisting that DDT had been tested and couldn't be killing off the animals. Of course, by the time it was banned in 1972 its persistent toxicity and effect on animals were scientifically well-documented.
Which, to me, makes this a fascinating movie. Yes, the greed of the timber companies led them to do bad things. But the concern of Gene Autry for the forest also led him to do something that we now know was bad, too -- albeit unknowingly.
One of my earliest childhood memories was getting home from school and sitting down in the family kitchen to hear "The Lone Ranger" on our big console radio. Of all my first TV heroes, none were bigger or braver than Davy Crockett, Superman and The Lone Ranger (not to forget his "faithful Indian companion and a fiery horse called Silver.") Until now, I'm sure I'd never seen Fess Parker, George Reeves or Clayton Moore as a bad guy. A few hours before this movie aired on cable, I saw the text of the preview box which read "Pete:Clayton Moore" so I was curious to see what color hat he was wearing. Actually, I later found out from IMDb filmographies that Parker, Reeves and Moore had each played villains more than once. Still, I had to wait until the third reel before I could be sure I was seeing Moore. In the first few scenes, what little dialogue he spoke didn't really identify him. But in the last scene he played with Autry, he spoke long enough that his clear deep voice revealed the familiar one we would grow to recognize from the long-running series which began not many months after the release of this film. There's little else about this oater I'd recommend. There are some good but forgettable songs, by Gene and others, just fair action and cinematography, no real romance, and not even a comical sidekick. It's not a great western by any stretch or even one of Autry's best films. For all that, it's still a passable way to spend an hour and ten minutes, which is about the length of one of my church's Sunday morning worship services. Forgive me, Pastor Mark, but Gene Autry's films haven't yet put me to sleep. Now, Rev, if you're hankerin' to liven up the congregation, I'd reckon you might try to wear a Stetson and fire a six-shooter (blanks-loaded, naturally) now and then. Dale Roloff
New science has made this particular Gene Autry western quite out of
date. Seems as though the rumors those outlaws were spreading about DDT
was right after all. The government did ban its use many years later.
But for Riders Of The Whistling Pines Gene is cast as a recently discharged forest ranger who is accused of killing another forest service ranger. The death is ruled accidental.
Why he was killed was that he discovered a kind of moth that can devastate the timber. Gene later discovers it and persuades the Interior Department in the form of his forest service buddies to spray DDT and save the timber.
But that doesn't help villain Douglass Dumbrille who wants the moths to kill the trees because he can strip the forest of dead trees and make a real windfall profit.
There's quite a bit more plot to this horse opera than is the case for one aimed at the Saturday Matinée crowd. There's also Jimmy Lloyd who is Autry's pal and drinking a lot because he got through World War II without a scratch and his wife died at home. Lloyd does something you would not see normally in a B picture kid's western.
Sad to say though that science really renders Riders Of The Whistling Pines quite obsolete.
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