Border Law (1931) Poster


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Undercurrents of gay subtext?
Chip-nut15 March 2006
I watched this movie because I like the simplicity of the older westerns. I also found this plot a little too simple. Even so, the rough-and-tumble action of the movie and the abruptness of the scene edits made it rather amusing.

I think that finding "undercurrents of gay subtext" in this movie is reading far too much into it. As a young man I wrestled with other young men (yes, even shirtless!), engaged in some good natured rump slapping, as athletes often do, and even wore shirts not fully buttoned. But anyone who thinks that any of us had any leanings toward being gay is not the brightest light in the marquee. That's really funny!
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Make that 7.5!
JohnHowardReid12 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Producer: Irving Briskin. Executive producer: Harry Cohn. Copyright 18 August 1931 by Columbia Pictures Corp. No New York opening. U.S. release: 15 September 1931. 6 reels. 62 minutes

SYNOPSIS: Assuming the identity of a notorious outlaw called the Pecos Kid, a Texas Ranger crosses the border into Mexico to infiltrate a gang of marauders who shot down his younger brother.

NOTES: Re-made by Ken Maynard as "Whistlin' Dan" (1932), and again by Jones as "The Fighting Ranger" (1934).

COMMENT: Pacily directed by Louis King (brother of Henry King), this is a most appealing outing which pits our muscularly sardonic hero Buck Jones (doing his own fighting and stunting here, even if the effect is a little undermined by obvious camera under-cranking) against two of the best heavies of the year. Mason (no relation to the English super-star, but I bet some idiot computers have already got their credits inextricably mixed) was usually cast in small roles as a treacherous worker or friend. Here he essays the chief villain most ably, brilliantly assisted by Louis Hickus, whose wonderfully thuggish face and brutal manner contrast superbly well not only with Mason's blandly perfidious deviltry but with the handsomely clean-cut Jones.

Mind you, Buck is not your conventional Gene Autry-Roy Rogers splendiferous hero. True, he rides a nice white horse (which fact proves important in the climax), but he doesn't dress up as a lily-handed dude and he doesn't mind knocking off a glass or two of hard liquor. He also has more than an eye for the ladies. And here again, he breaks western tradition, for though Lupita Tovar is a spirited lass — intelligent too — she's somewhat short of Hollywood's usual ideals of feminine beauty. In other words, the whole atmosphere, scenery and characters in "Border Law" are grounded firmly in realism.

The movie's only tip of the sombrero to "B" western conventions, lies in the hero's choice of a sidekick. A grizzled veteran soon became de rigeur for these roles, but in 1931 the tradition was not yet set in concrete. What's more, Rice is handed some neat lines and plays the part most effectively.

By "B" standards, the budget is expansive. Sets and locations are forcefully utilized. In fact, technical credits are so smooth, especially in the use of music and sound effects, it's hard to believe the movie was made as early as 1931. And as for the marvelous editing with its brilliant cross-cutting at the all-action climax, — full marks indeed!
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So Much Has Changed (?)
martin lane14 December 2005
In the time of "Brokeback Mountain" it is fun to look back over past epics of Western Machoness with undercurrents of gay subtext. Ultra manly, muscular, and handsome Jones is particularly fascinating now....given his slightly overstated wardrobe (big hats for a big man?)and seeming inability to ever fully button any of his shirts (or refrain from getting bare chested at least once a feature).

Add in his butt slapping horseplay with the young actor playing his younger brother (complete with wrestling around with him when the kid is in only his underwear in the opening scene)and the bar brawl scene where Jones is taunted to "Strip Down and Go At It" (!) by the chief baddie who succeeds in getting our hero to undress and roll around the dirty floor with a particularly hunky if nasty junior bad guy....and the subtext is much more genuine than Jones' ever so stiff and courtly flirting with Lopita Tovar...

Purists will scoff....but there is no denying the overtones that were probably innocent then...but seem pretty overt now.
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Aside from some very nice stunt-work, it's a rather unremarkable western.
MartinHafer20 October 2013
I noticed there were comments both ways about possible gay subtext in this film. Well, as some of the gayest looking scenes occurred between characters who were brothers in the film, I don't think that there really is that much in it that could be interpreted as gay. But there is one scene where a guy tells Buck Jones and his rival to take off there clothes and have at it--that is pretty gay! So, I'd say both reviewers have a point--and the truth seems somewhere in the middle.

As far as the rest of the film goes, aside from a couple remarkable things (the romance and the stunts), this is a completely ordinary and unremarkable film. Plus, the acting is occasionally quite stiff and clumsy. As far as the romance goes, back in 1931, it was a much more bigoted world. So, having Buck fall in love with a Mexican lady was unusual. Also, towards the end of the film, several stunts (especially the guy seamlessly grabbing his friend while on horseback) were amazingly good.

The plot is about what you'd expect. A gang is operating at the border with Mexico and keep crossing back and forth to avoid capture. After Buck's brother is murdered by them, he vows to destroy them and goes undercover. I've seen a ton of old B-westerns and this plot is very, very familiar. Not bad--just not all that good either.
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