Water Rustlers (1939) Poster

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5/10
Shoot Out At Silver Creek
zardoz-1326 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The last of Dorothy Page's three westerns "Water Rustlers" is ironic in a two ways. First, how do you rustle water? The treacherous villain Robert Weylan (Stanley Price) of the Silver Creek Mining Company dams up the river and diverts it so he can hydraulically mine the terrain. Naturally, this amounts to a major inconvenience for Tim and Shirley Martin who have a cattle ranch as well as their neighbors. Once Weylan drains off the water, the Martins begin to suffer as do their neighbors. When Shirley resorts to the court of law to stop the audacious Weylan, he retaliates by either killing witnesses set to testify or kills them. Meanwhile, Shirley discovers a spy in their midsts, and it is none other than their own foreman Wiley (Warner Richmond) and he grates on Shirley's nerves when he refuses to hire a stranger, Bob Lawson (Dave O'Brien), to ride herd. Shirley fires Wiley and tells him to hightail it and see if Weylan will hire him. Things get worse for Shirley when her father Tim (Ethan Allen) catches a fatal bullet during a shoot-out with three of Weylan's guards at his dam. Two of those three guards are relying on rifles, while the third is firing away with his revolver. Shirley refuses to resort to violence after her dad dies, but the ranchers derive no satisfaction from the courts. At one point, Shirley comes up with the idea to drive their cattle to the other side of the dam, but Weylan thwarts them. He dispatches a bi-plane to stampede the cattle. At the last minute, Shirley comes up with an idea. Her fellow ranchers and she decide to blow up a hill and get their water back. A desperate Weylan saddles up to ride with his desperadoes, and they ride out to prevent Shirley from blowing up the hill. Ironically, during the ensuing gun battle, Weylan takes a slug and falls on the plunger. "Water Rustlers" features Dorothy Page warbling three inconsequential songs and Vincent Barnett provides the comic relief as Shirley's chuck wagon cook.
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6/10
"You wanted a fight, you've got one, and we've just begun."
classicsoncall7 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Well all the cowboy greats found themselves in the middle of a water rights feud at one time or another - Autry, Rogers, Ritter, Starrett, and... Dorothy Page?!?! Until today I'd never heard of her, so it was doubly surprising to see that she had top billing in this story over Dave O'Brien. Not exactly a household name himself, but he did have over two hundred screen appearances to his credit, while Miss Page only made a half dozen films. Hired on by Grand National Pictures as a singing cowgirl, the concept never quite made it with matinée fans, but give the girl credit. She sounded pretty good here with a trio of tunes sprinkled throughout the picture.

The story is fairly standard otherwise, as Silver Creek Mining Enterprises owner Weylan (Stanley Price) dams off a section of river denying water to the local ranchers and cattlemen. Taking the high road, Shirley Martin (Page) and her neighbors take Weylan to court, but when a number of them are intimidated against testifying, the remaining ranchers decide to take matters into their own hands. With Miss Martin and foreman Lawson (O'Brien) in the lead, the locals set dynamite charges near the base of the dam, and during a shootout between the opposing sides, they use the old 'fall on the dynamite plunger' trick to set off the blast that brings water back to Silver Creek.

What's interesting about the picture is that the standard heroics that usually go to the male cowboy hero are performed by Miss Page, the riding and roping, and as part of the finale, saving Lawson from drowning by throwing him a lasso and hauling him in. Quite honestly, O'Brien's character didn't have that much to do in the picture, although he did acquit himself well in your standard brawl against a couple of the baddies at one point. By the time the picture's over, you don't get the idea so much that Lawson won over his sweetheart, but that it happened the other way around.

Seeing as how the tables were turned in this Western with the leading man a lady, another one you might try is 1948's "The Hawk of Powder River". In that one, Jennifer Holt is the leader of an outlaw gang and gets to mix it up with Eddie Dean and Roscoe Ates. It's a bit of an over the top role for Holt, who enjoyed it so much it wound up being her favorite picture.
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