exciting (but cliché-ridden) late-silent action with Ranger the Dog
The Grapevine DVD of this 1928 FBO release is taken from the only known print, found in Sweden, and not in very good shape, but well transferred. This was one of ten low-budget silent films made between 1927 and 1929 starring Ranger the Dog. The latter ones in the series, such as this one, star Sam Nelson in various roles, presumably as the owner or friend of Ranger and as the protagonist. Yes, Ranger is in the Rin-Tin-Tin vein, but he is an expressive dog and he communicates emotions well. He also has a nice rapport with human star Nelson. Ranger is accused of killing sheep, and there is some incriminating evidence found, so the locals want him killed. They even convince Nelson that Ranger is guilty, and Nelson is given a gun and goes to kill the seemingly guilty party, Ranger. Meanwhile, there is a romantic subplot involving Caryl Lincoln, an attractive young lady (and daughter of one of Ranger's accusers) who is saved by Ranger in an exciting scene where a runaway team of horses is driving Lincoln to certain ruin...until Ranger runs, catches the team, grabs their reins, and stops them, saving Lincoln. Lincoln is also being pursued by a Snidely Whiplash-style oily villain (my teen-aged daughter pointed out how we knew this character was no good due to his mustache and his bowler hat!)who wants to marry her. While the surviving print is somewhat dark and grainy, there is enough action to carry the viewer along, and anyone who enjoys films with animal leads will find this a gem waiting to be discovered. Yes, one can predict pretty much EVERYTHING that will happen and every "type" expected in this film (the angry mob, the buffoonish rich guy, the strong silent rancher, etc.) is here, but we don't watch ancient low-budget animal films for great innovations...but for exciting entertainment. My daughter is NOT a regular viewer of silent films, yet she approached this with the right spirit of fun, got into the plot, and stayed for the whole film, when she could easily have gone to do something else. Looks like Ranger is still working his canine magic almost 80 years later...
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