Trigger, Jr. (1950)
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Roy is a travelling horse carnival man who winters with a cantankerous old man (George Cleveland) who disapproves of his son (young Peter Miles), a boy who's become afraid of horses after his mother's death in a freak accident. In a nice touch relaying the age of the dying West, Roy and his friends go to a horse auction held by an army relay station. There they see a dangerous white stallion who's been condemned to die for his violence against other horses. They attempt to buy the deadly stallion for use in their show, but are assured by the doctor (I. Stanford Jolley) that the horse must die. However Jolley, who is about to lose his job with the relay station, makes a deal with an unscrupulous rancher to keep the horse alive. The rancher then sets the horse on his competitor's ranches and urges them to buy his protection so they will be safe. It's up to the boy to overcome his fear of horses in time to rescue Roy and the others.
The photography by Jack Marta is arguably reason enough to watch the film -- the set designers have filled every scene with rich and vibrant colors and everything is framed perfectly. The most exceptional aspect of the film IMHO is the music, some of which is well written. I particularly enjoyed both the music and staging of "Stampede".
Turns out he needs Roy around because he's in a battle with Grant Withers of the Range Patrol. Withers has himself a real nice protection racket going. Those ranches who don't employ him somehow keep losing their stock.
Withers during the course of the film employs the services of a killer white stallion that was a former army horse that the army ordered destroyed. Trigger tangles with the horse they call the Phantom and is injured and has hysterical blindness in their first encounter. Guess who wins the return bout. Here's a hint, think Louis and Schmeling.
Roy and Dale really do take a back seat to Trigger and his problems in this film. They do however get to sing a very nice duet entitled May the Good Lord Take A Liking To You which sold a few records back in the day. I have it on one of my old record albums. Roy did all right in the recording field, but never was a blockbuster best seller the way his singing cowboy rival Gene Autry was.
It's not a bad film, but Trigger really should have been billed first.
The King of the Cowboys continued to reign in filmgoers in the fifties, with this vivid "Truecolor" entry directed by William Witney being one of the better entries. These films were made very quickly and never intended to be art, but modern viewers can become enchanted here and there (as in the past). "Trigger, Jr." is inappropriately titled - "The Phantom Stallion" would have been better - but it accentuates the lush, dream-like quality of many by including an effective nightmare, had by young Miles.
Miles' nightmarish dream includes the blinded "Trigger", who had earlier donned a downright creepy looking mask. Also noteworthy is the characterization given Miles, who "gets more like his father every day," a "worthless, no account drifter." This description comes from grandfather Cleveland, who is introduced as lovable, and from a wheelchair. However, his character is more darkly complex, and his disability not at all contrived. Frequent Rogers director Witney corrals it well, with good action and stunt work.
****** Trigger, Jr. (6/30/50) William Witney ~ Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Gordon Jones, Peter Miles