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This action-packed Rocky Lane oater is a good one with one flaw, Nugget
Clark (Eddy Waller) is missing. And though Cricket Adams (Walter
Baldwin) has some humorous lines, his continual griping and
cantankerousness becomes grating after awhile. In pre-Nugget Clark
days, veteran character actor Tom London was a suitable Nugget Clark
type for Rocky. Too bad he wasn't used this time.
The story by M. Coates Webster is not as cliché-ridden as many of the B western scripts of the day. Rocky, undercover as usual, seeks to find those who killed his friend and who are behind a rash of robberies in the vicinity (Durango is not mentioned). The sheriff, Bill Walters (Ross Ford), has his hands full since the ranchers stand to lose their land if the money to pay their bank mortgages doesn't make it through. Cricket Adams is against the sheriff but his niece, Janis (Aline Towne), is in love with the lawman. Rocky shows up to help the sheriff and in the process persuades Cricket to favor the budding romance between the sheriff and Janis Adams. The plot centers on $40,000 being hidden in a feed sack amidst numerous others in Cricket's barn with both the outlaws and Rocky trying to determine which sack contains the stolen money.
There is plenty of action and fancy stunt work to entertain the fans with a protracted fisticuffs near the end between Rocky and the boss outlaw, John Blake (Steve Darrell). Republic was adept at showing the cowboy stars at their best when riding in pursuit of the bad guys. Rocky astride his stallion, Black Jack, chasing the outlaws was always a high point of the Allan Rocky Lane features.
Rocky had a nervous habit of pulling at his gloves. Whether this was intended by the director is unknown. But it didn't subtract from his popular appeal at the box office. "Rough Riders of Durango" is one of Rocky's best outings.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When one of Rocky Lane's courier buddies is shot and killed, the cowboy
hero heads off to the town of Durango to help avenge his friend and get
the goods on the bad guys who are looting local wagon trains and
creating general havoc. It's true as another reviewer points out, that
the town of Durango is never mentioned by name, however one of the
local businesses names the town in the latter part of the movie. In the
main plot of the story, local ranchers must wait a week for a forty
thousand dollar payload to arrive in town in order to make their
mortgage payments, and my timing in watching the film had me chuckling
each time Sheriff Walters (Ross Ford) reassured the ranchers with "The
money will be here in time". It was like listening to a bunch of hot
shot bankers who created the sub prime mortgage mess telling us that
everything was really OK, until of course, it wasn't.
Here's something to think about - when Rocky arrived in town and filled Sheriff Walters in on how his money pouch was stolen, they watch as Cricket Adams (Walter Baldwin) goes into a store across the street from the jail. The sheriff states that they could go out to Cricket's farm to look for the strongbox that the outlaws probably hid there. However Rocky was a stranger to Durango and didn't know any of it's residents, while the sheriff couldn't know Rocky was referring to Cricket's farm. Lucky guess? - I don't think so. Or how about Rocky sliding across the dirt to escape a bad guy bullet at Cricket's farm? When he gets up, his shirt isn't even dusty! Now there's a super power I didn't know cowboys had. And say, wasn't that an awful big ranch house old Cricket had for a corn farmer?
I guess that's what makes a lot of these old 'B' oaters so entertaining, even when a lot of thought wasn't put into the story line. What you need to do is concentrate on the cowboy hero, and in this one, Rocky's always well poised with his manner and his fists. I especially enjoyed his wild brawl with villain Blake (Steve Darrell) in the local saloon, making great use of breakaway props and furniture, along with that great rescue aboard Black Jack when Cricket's buckboard took off in an early scene. Also gratifying to see that the story's hero passes on making a play for the rancher's niece (Aline Towne), deferring to the sheriff instead. Makes it a whole lot easier to move along at the end of the story.
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