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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There has probably been another Gene Autry Western without a sidekick
or comedy relief character, but I can't recall one. Otherwise there's a
familiar cast here with Gail Davis and Dickie Jones on hand, and Robert
Armstong in an uncharacteristic heel role. There's also Clayton Moore
in a pre-Lone Ranger portrayal as a villain, not unusual if you've seen
a lot of older Westerns. He turned up often enough as a bad guy in
pictures with Autry and Charles Starrett. One of them was Autry's
"Riders of the Whistling Pines", also from 1949, the same year as this
What brings an element of interest to the picture are a couple of scenes involving large teams of uniformed riders from the New Mexico Military Institute, with mention of nearby Roswell. This would have been a few years before the aliens landed. I'm not talking about illegal immigrants here, but those 'real' aliens from UFO's crash landing in the desert. Now that would have been an interesting plot line for Gene.
The story segues a number of times before getting back on track, with Gene foiling Pat Feeney's (Armstrong) attempt to steal Randy Pryor's (Jones) horse and ranch by hook or by crook. I was surprised to see Frankie Darro show up here as Randy's buddy Gig Jackson. I guess I'm used to seeing him in flicks of an earlier era where he turned up as a young tough or a troubled teenager. There was no real reason given in the story for his change of heart in turning on Feeney, but that's how things often went back then, a way for the good guys to turn the table on the villains.
Maybe more so than most Westerns, this one seemed to have a lot of scenes on horseback, and not just of the chase variety. At the military academy, Dickie Jones got to show his skill playing polo. I always thought Jones was about the best stunt rider in pictures, as evidenced by his work as the Range Rider's sidekick in the early Fifties. What I got a kick out of was old Chris Dobbs (Irving Bacon) referring to the polo match as horseback croquet.
Lively programmer thanks to hard riding, acrobatic fisticuffs, and
energetic performances. Jones makes an excellent headstrong kid, while
Gail Davis shows why she was an Autry favorite in more ways than one.
The plot's more complex than usual. Gene has to help the corps of NMMI
cadets straighten out Jones before the bad guys cheat him out of the
There're more speaking parts than usual, spread out among a notable supporting castKing Kong's Robert Armstrong, 1930's bad boy Frankie Darro, and the Lone Ranger himself Clayton Moore. Throw in Your Hit Parade's Russell Arms and NMMI's corps of cadets and you've got a more colorful array than usual for an oater. Also, there's little expected comic relief and what there is comes across as more gruff than silly.
For me, the only real drawback echoes that of reviewer Carl 70the editing room did a poor job of merging New Mexico flatland with SoCal scrublands, in addition to obvious process shots with the Hollywood cast standing in front of a back-screen. Too bad these technical aspects don't rise to the level of the movie as a whole.
Nonetheless, with a better than average cast and script, plus New Mexico locations, it looks like Gene was reaching for more than the ordinary and generally speaking, he got it.
(In passingBy the time I was a cadet at NMMI in the late 50's, the cavalry format had been eliminated. No more horses or championship polo. Instead, we were trained in tank warfare, the more modern equivalent. Seeing the movie now, I'm sort of sorry I wasn't there ten years earlier.)
Recently restored later Gene Autry film about his efforts to save the son of his deceased best friend from the evils of gambling. Protagonist is trying to pay back his former friend who turned him in and married his girl -- hence the attempt to corrupt the son. Perhaps the best part of this otherwise lackluster film is to see shots of cadets at the New Mexico Military Institute and their post-World War II horsemanship. This must have recorded one of the last cavalry charges in the US. Recommended only for die-hard fans or alumni.
Other than the scenes of the NMMI mounted corps and polo teams, this is just one more of the same cookie cutter movies Gene cranked out. It is interesting to note how the film was edited, switching you back and forth from the movie ranch in southern Cali to the plains, dust and cottonwoods of southeast NM. Gene didn't shoot so much as one scene in NM; he did go to Roswell for the premier, though. Wish I could have been there for that.
Robert Armstrong from King Kong and Clayton Moore, soon to be The Lone Ranger, add a bit to this mediocre late Autry product. The kid is insufferable and his worried sister not much better. Armstrong is a truly rotten villain, however.
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