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In many ways, best re-telling of the heroic story
4 July 2018
Prior, anyway, to the current mis- and/or un-informed generation, everybody knew the story of the Alamo.

It's THE American story of heroism, of courage in the face of overwhelming odds.

It's usually portrayed as an equivalent of the battle by the English colonists on the East Coast for independence from Great Britain.

"Heroes of the Alamo" is a remarkable production, doubly so considering it's from Columbia.

Unlike so many versions of this story, there is no over-emphasis on side stories, no excessive corn or sticky sweet sentiment.

In the big-budget John Wayne version, history was better served in the reminder that there were Mexican Texicans alongside Gringo Texicans, even inside the Alamo. That's missing in this much lower budget version.

However, the remarkably capable actor Julian Rivero plays General -- and dictator -- Santa Anna as a strong, if not very nice, leader, and the other "Mexicans" are shown as generally brave and admirable people.

In fact, many hundreds of the soldiers in the surrounding forces had been conscripts, were poorly fed and clothed, and were exhausted from the forced march that brought them to Bexar, as San Antonio was known then.

This version also shows the truth, that the Texicans as led by Stephen Austin -- beautifully played by the excellent Earle Hodgins in an unusual role for him -- were wanting to be loyal to Mexico, had in fact come to Texas mostly with that intention.

Not shown is the history that much of Mexico's governmental leadership had invited the Gringos to Texas at least in part to be a buffer against the wild, and often savage, "Indians," as the natives were and are mistakenly called. Texas was wide-open desert land, and the government of Mexico, like all governments, had no thought for the people but only for any riches that might be brought in.

Also like all governments, the Mexican state, as led, or mis-led, by Santa Anna grew more greedy and more grasping and the new Texicans -- very much like the English colonists on the Atlantic Coast -- grew resentful and finally rebellious.

Some of that history is referenced in "Heroes of the Alamo," but a lot more is, by necessity, left out, including, for example, the massacre by Santa Anna of the Texicans at Goliad.

Al -- in real life Almaron -- Dickinson really did have his wife inside the Alamo, and in real life she went out to tell the world of the heroism and tragedy of that battle. In real life, though, she was Susanna, not Ann or Anne.

Many of the real-life heroes are portrayed here, including David Crockett, James Bonham, Jim Bowie, and William Travis. Also shown in this film is William H. Wharton, who was not at the Alamo but was a strong rabble-rouser for Texas independence. (There is a page of quotes by Wharton on the Internet, but most of what is there is, certainly by modern standards, pretty racist and, in my opinion, rather general and, thus, rather stupid. It shows ignorance of or blindness to the fact Mexicans fought alongside the Gringos, not just beside Santa Anna.)

There is a print at YouTube that is miserably dark, and thus it is hard sometimes to be fully aware of what is happening on screen. Surely technology exists to improve the quality. And this movie is not just a good one, but an important one. It has a large cast of high-quality players, so many of whom are unknown now; and it is a good and mostly accurate history of Texas and the Alamo.

"Heroes of the Alamo" is by no means perfect, but it is an honest attempt at history on the Columbia limited budget and deserves being seen, again and again.
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From height of Depression, this social drama is again -- or still -- relevant
3 July 2018
In the city where this movie was made, where Columbia Pictures studio stood, where across the years probably millions of people have sought their dreams, in this year of A.D. 2018, anywhere from 40- to 60,000 people, men and women and children, are homeless.

Because it is Los Angeles, one of the most corrupt and incompetently run cities in these United States, the homeless are both coddled and harassed by various government bodies.

But genuine long-lasting help? Not in Los Angeles! One not so famous singer, with his own hands started building "tiny houses," giving them to homeless people of his acquaintance, and of course the city moved in garbage trucks and armed agents and stole at least three of them!

Eventually they were returned, but with the solar cells missing!

Private individuals and companies have donated land on which to erect the tiny homes and, again of course, have run into all kinds of bureaucratic obstacles. It is, to repeat, Los Angeles.

"Girls of the Road" was produced in one of the worst years of the Depression. After several years of the "New Deal," millions more people were out of work, tens of thousands more businesses had collapsed, and the Roosevelt administration, which had sought for answers in Italy, Germany, and Soviet Russia, had concluded only a war could save the situation. And, in the next year, got one.

In this excellent movie, beautifully written, and superbly acted, desperate people exhibit the best and worst traits one would expect from people who have experienced the worst from other people.

They have lost all dignity, and have had to beg for hand-outs since, being "road girls," no one will hire them for real jobs.

One outsider sees a way, and, in this film, is well-enough connected to bring about a partial, and maybe temporary, solution.

In modern life, governments have destroyed jobs and erected impossible obstacles for the creation of new jobs.

Supposedly free human beings are required to carry government-issued cards embossed with government-issued numbers, without which those supposedly free human beings cannot even apply for jobs.

And in many situations cannot even apply for hand-outs from allegedly Christian agencies.

Helen Mack has long been one of my favorite actresses. Her performance in "The Milky Way" made me think she was perfect in comedy parts, but her performance in "Girls of the Road" showed me she is perfect in any role she wanted to play. She is powerful, mesmerizing, as "Mickey."

Ann Dvorak is, as usual, also perfect. She was an elegant-looking lady, although she's also been perfect as much rougher characters, and she had a nearly musical voice, very noticeable in this role.

Having some experience and knowledge of the current problems of homelessness, I was moved to tears by this movie, by the script as well as by the performances.

Solutions to our problems are not be found in government -- please be sure to listen to what "the governor" says in the opening scenes. It accurately sums up why governments are not to be looked to for answers.

Voluntary co-operation between and among individual human beings, caring human beings, perhaps working with voluntary organizations, including such loving and generous agencies as the Salvation Army, can, though, immensely lessen these kinds of human problems, sometimes known as "societal problems."

But they are not "societal." They are human.

Please do watch "Girls of the Road." Remember the context, the worst years of the Great Depression, and try not to let the too-dark print at YouTube prevent your seeing what great drama and, at the same time, what a great message of hope is presented.
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Great cast well directed in good story
21 June 2018
Tex Ritter always looked and sounded good and his Texas upbringing showed when he essayed cowboy roles.

Johnny Mack Brown, on the other hand, was not a native-born cowboy, in fact, started his movie career as leading man to such leading ladies as Joan Crawford, but he became one of the most popular Western stars, and with very good reason.

First, he was a good-looking, athletic man, having been, in fact, a college football star. Somehow, he adapted himself to the cowboy role and seemed perfectly natural in his dozens of Western roles.

In this small film, he doesn't have to stretch, except in the fight scenes, but where acting replaces action, he continues to shine.

He and Tex are sided by Fuzzy Knight, whose part stretches him a bit and he's not the silly stutterer he played too often. Really Knight made a good Western player.

Again not needing to do much but look good, Jennifer Holt as usual does that extremely well, but she always was much more than the proverbial pretty face: She came from a family of actors and never let the side down.

Jimmy Wakely, later a star in his own series, is here with his two side-men, the great Johnny Bond and Scotty Harrel.

They, as friends and allies with our heroes, must join in confronting the bad guys, including Robert Mitchum. Wow, even as a beginner, Mitchum was so smooth, so in control, that he would become a huge star just seemed inevitable in the way he handled even this type of small part.

Cast and the script by Oliver Drake make this potentially routine film something more, and they are helped by directing from veteran Ray Taylor. And music from Ritter and the Wakely trio is just icing on the cake.

I have no hesitation in recommending "The Lone Star Trail," and you can find a copy at YouTube.
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Fairly slow Tarzan movie's best aspect is the cast
20 June 2018
Glenn Morris played Tarzan much as author Burroughs' wrote him: He was not a talker -- till later -- and when he met Jane, he said only, pointing to himself, "Tarzan." Then he pointed to Jane and said, simply, "Jane."

No "me" or "you."

In the books, he later became quite articulate, but only after being out in what we sometimes laughingly call "civilization."

In this rather languorous version -- at least three of which can be found at YouTube -- Glenn Morris' Tarzan does not meet "Jane," but he does meet "Eleanor," played by the lovely swimming champ Eleanor Holm.

The writers found a plausible excuse to get her into swim wear only a few times, but that included during the chase scene when the bad guys inevitably captured her.

Miss Holm made a few movies and Morris, sad to say, didn't. I think he should have: He was a great-looking and very athletic man, capable enough in this role and, with training perhaps, he could have played heroic roles into the future.

Other players here, even the atmosphere and bit people, seemed just perfect for what was needed and this Tarzan -- though unique and not part of any series -- is pleasant entertainment.

Yes, it's filled with stock footage, and there is very little violence, but that should not be considered a negative.

If only to watch Eleanor Holm, I'd watch "Tarzan's Revenge" -- a generic title, by the way, and not relating to the story -- again and I recommend it.
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Extraordinarily good cast, good special effects in low-budget preparedness propaganda
14 June 2018
In some ways, this scary preparedness film is rather hokey and out of date -- but not in the acting nor the special effects.

Interestingly, despite some misinformed reviews and even the overview at IMDb, no enemy country is ever named. At some points, the enemy sound like Nazis, at others Eastern European.

Yes, they are Marxists, and that is bluntly explained a few times, but, for whatever reason, perhaps of diplomacy, no nation is named.

In fact, in 1952 Marxists were the indeed the enemy most to be feared, foreign and domestic.

And that is still true today, even if they are subtler in their goals and targets than the ones portrayed in this film. And even if they prefer to label themselves "democratic socialists."

One important lesson in this film, not at all intended, is that all governments and all violent movements, whether Marxist, Nazi, or religious extremist, pose serious dangers to people, to individual human beings.

This movie opens with a reporter asking people whether they would support a "universal draft," not just for the military, but for "essential" jobs, such as military or defense plants.

Such a concept springs from a collectivist notion: We as individuals count only as cogs in the giant machine of the state.

One man expresses anger that the government wants to take over his plant to make tanks: He has spent years building his business, he notes, and he has others depending on him and his output. He objects to being taken over by the government. Tractors are important to society, also.

At the close, a quote from George Washington about preparedness being the best prevention of war re-emphasizes the movie's point; but the movie misses another point, the one I mentioned earlier: People are their own purposes, and as we submerge ourselves into the group, into "society," into the collective, we set ourselves up just for such scenarios as this.

Big government almost inevitably leads to war.

Movements that use, that advocate violence to accomplish their goals, whether economic or religious, promulgate and maintain their own wars.

Big government and violent mass movements each causes and results from the lessening, the very destruction of individualism. It behooves each of us, all of us, to work and vote and educate for freedom, for strengthening individuals and the concept of the individual, and work, vote, and educate for human rights.

But, and this is very important, those efforts are vital, not just in these United States, but in every nation-state and in every city. And especially in every human heart.
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Marked Trails (1944)
Monogram out-did itself with the excellent script, directing, and cast
11 May 2018
Director J.P. McCarthy gave us some unusual moving camera angles, including from atop a stagecoach, and he gave us quite a moving script, with co-writer Victor Hammond. Cinematography was by Harry Neumann.

While the story might be considered well within the B Western tradition, still it provides twists and turns in the plot, and some unusual moments of emotion, and many memorable characters, played by some of the best Western performers.

Two of the best and busiest B Western stars -- and they really were both stars -- Bob Steele and Hoot Gibson -- led the array of but they were joined by the lovely and talented Veda Ann Borg, whom I had never before seen in a Western.

According to her IMDb bio, she had been seriously injured in an auto accident and had to under large-scale facial reconstruction. Her surgeon was an artist. She was beautiful.

"Marked Trails" came along after her surgery, and watching her in this makes one think she should have had many more and bigger roles.

Her last scene was quite striking, as well as quite a fascinating departure for a B Western, a mature and intriguing moment.

Perhaps there have been many Westerns with more violent action, but there was enough here, including fight scenes with the athletic Steele -- who always makes me think he could have been a successful pro boxer -- to keep even us Western addicts happy.

"Marked Trails" is available in a not-very-good print at bnwmovies.com and I highly recommend it.
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Surprisingly literate script and Joan Barclay: Who could ask for anything more?
27 April 2018
Ken Maynard gave one of his best performances in this very good B Western story that was also well directed by Robert F. Hill.

An excellent gang of cowboys help make this an exciting and thoroughly enjoyable movie, and be sure to watch Budd (known here as "Bud") Buster in a role that gives him some room and that might remind you of George "Gabby" Hayes -- surely one of Buster's best performances, out of the hundreds he gave.

Ken's sidekick is played by Billy (here "Bill") Griffith, of whom I knew nothing previously, and who seems to be best known for TV roles. He is not so silly or over the top as too many B sidekicks have been.

Joan Barclay, though, was one of the most talented and simply adorable of the B Western leading ladies. She reportedly didn't care a lot about being a big star and was happy just keeping busy. IMDb shows 85 credits, but with her beauty and talent, there should be more than twice that. Supposedly, by her own account, that she refused the casting couch -- which was kept busy even in the pre-Harvey Weinstein days -- might well have been an obstacle to a busier career. Our loss.

Writer George H. Plympton has more than 300 credits here at IMDb, although some seem to have been duplicated. Regardless, he was quite the busy -- and talented -- writer. And, in this script, he helped make the players show themselves A quality. He gives clever and even literate dialogue to this excellent cast.

Two complaints: I just hate to see Dave O'Brien as a bad guy, and the print I saw at YouTube is in pretty bad shape. But it's still very much worth watching. I highly recommend it.
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Good music, great singer, unusual story, not-funny humor
13 April 2018
Eddie Dean made any movie worth listening to and his roles usually made them worth watching.

Jennifer Holt ALWAYS made a movie worth watching, and in "Hawk," she had an unusual role that proved she could and should have been a star. Superlative performance.

Roscoe Ates was an intrusion, but most of the rest of the cast varied from good to great.

In addition to Eddie Dean's songs, the score highlighting the action fit well; the photography was excellent; the stunts, in particular the fight scenes, were simply first-rate; and the entire film was well directed.

There is an good print at BnWMovies.com, a site I highly recommend.
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Irish Luck (1939)
Great cast, good story add up to lot of fun
13 April 2018
Frankie Darro and Mantan Moreland made a great team and both were great actors. They were very well directed here by Howard Bretherton in a good story, although there were times the dialogue was a bit over the top and rather too breathlessly delivered.

Still this is fun, and one to watch again.

I saw an excellent version at bnwmovies.com and I highly recommend that site.
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Some very good riding inserts, good story, don't quite make up for poor acting, directing
5 March 2018
Ollie Drake was one of the great B Western writers, but as a director? Based on this sample, not so much.

Sunset Carson was a very likable man (and I met him in person quite a while after this movie and he was still very likable), but he was never known as a good actor. Well, in this movie, he was almost the best in the cast.

He was a tall and good-looking man, and apparently very strong. In one scene, he has to pick up another actor and, holding him on his shoulder, he mounts his horse! Most other actors would have had to drape the other over the horse then mount. Quite a feat.

Standing out in the acting category was veteran villain John Cason, for some reason billed here as Bob Cason. He had a couple scenes where he had to take off his shirt and he showed he was a well-built and athletic-looking guy.

Female lead was Pat Starling. Almost nothing is known about her except that she has 15 credits. She was a beautiful woman, and with a better director could have been seen as a very good actress.

Providing music was one of the best Western bands I've seen and heard, The Rodeo Revelers seem to have made only this movie but the apparent leader, Buddy McDowell, was in two. He was quite a good fiddler.

In one song, they sounded a bit like the Sons of the Pioneers, but in others they had their own sound, which was a good one. No credits are given, but at least one song sounds like the work of Oliver Drake.

There is a pretty good print at YouTube. It's not great movie-making, but it has Sunset Carson and that's enough reason to watch.
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Smokey Smith (1935)
Exciting, action packed, even violent, but very well directed and acted
15 February 2018
Mary Kornman was one of the loveliest young ladies who never, for whatever reason, managed to break into the A pictures. And she was a good enough actress, too, that she should have been given more breaks.

In "Smokey Smith" she has a few scenes in which she shows her acting ability, with facial and bodily movements, as well as her loveliness.

Playing her step-father is the very great George Hayes, long before he was "Gabby," and in a role with a twist. He was really a very fine actor.

Star Bob Steele was his usual superior self, showing his acting chops as well as his excellent cowboy skills. He has to have been among the five or ten best riders of all the cowboys stars, except, perhaps, for the rodeo stars, such as Yakima Canutt.

Speaking of Yak, that his fight-scene choreography had not yet become the industry standard shows in some of the fight scenes in these Westerns, but that does not really detract. Little Bob Steele mixing it up with the larger Warner Richmond looks rough enough.

"Smokey Smith" has a gritty and rugged look, and the special effects and makeup departments make Bob Steele and others look especially worn. Along with the excellent directing and photography, they make this movie one to watch. I do recommend it, and would have given it a higher rating except the print at YouTube seems to have an entire reel missing. Fortunately, the scene following is pretty self-explanatory, so give it a look, unless you can find a better print.
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Die Fledermaus (1984 TV Movie)
Beyond delightful; close enough to perfect
13 February 2018
Start with the thoroughly wonderful and tuneful music of Johann Strauss, Jr., and add the performances of some of the greatest singers in recent history, conducted by the magnificent Placido Domingo, and you have a TV movie to put all other TV movies into the darkest of shades.

(They all are great, but my favorite in this superlative cast was someone at my first viewing new to me: Hildegard Heichele, who plays Adele. You have to watch her, and watch her even when she is in the background. What a thoroughly delightful actress, and what a magnificent singer.)

Can you say "Bravo"? Oh, you will, you will.

The two previous reviews are some of the best I've ever seen at IMDb, written by two people of knowledge and with taste. And there should be more like them -- more reviewers and more reviews of such skill.

As the first review says, if you want to introduce someone you like to great music, to opera, to beautiful spectacle, "Die Fledermaus" is the right choice, and this TV movie might be the perfect version. (It has quite a bit added, but it merely makes this better, it just adds to the fun) It's readily accessible in several ways, including being right there at the click of a few buttons on YouTube.

Oh, please do yourself a huge favor: Find this version and watch it. You'll possibly sing along, or hum along, or at least try to conduct, but for sure you'll be nodding your head and/or tapping your feet in pure joy. I certainly did. And will again.
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Excellent from cast and directing to script and action
12 February 2018
On any list of great cowboy stars who are great riders, Bob Steele has to be at or near the top. He was also one of the best action stars, especially in the fight scenes. (And later in his career, he was just superb in small parts as gangsters or, shamefully unbilled, as bit or even atmosphere player in big-budget pictures.)

Any movie with him on horseback, or mounting or dismounting his horse, is a movie to watch.

And in this surprisingly good low-budget Western, Bob Steele is merely the first-named performer.

His leading lady is the supremely talented, but today little-known, Lois January, a genuine Texas girl who was seemingly born to star in Westerns. Watching her, one knows one is seeing a real actress too.

Charles King is another real actor, one seemingly doomed to forever play B-Western villains, but so obviously capable of more. Just watching him in one of his inevitable fight scenes always gives me pause: HOW, I ask, did he not get hurt?

Other actors have spoken very well of him, including Miss January. Actors who became Western stars said he taught them how to handle the fight scenes, for example, and his own abilities include more than fights. He has an expressive face and voice.

Ernie Adams again surprised me. He plays a strong and brave right-hand-man to the hero, and is very believable.

My favorite Dave "Tex" O'Brien has a small role, but that personality shines through and so does the ability.

Earl Dwire, with so many credits, again plays a sympathetic bad man. As a fan, I hate to see him playing a character sure to get the worst of it.

All the rest of the cast, even the great performers who get no screen credit, are just perfect Western players, and many get a chance to shine in this very well-directed and very well-written Western.

I really do recommend this (maybe not perfect but) excellent Western, and you can find a good print at YouTube.
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First-rate cast in first-rate script
10 February 2018
With lots of intricate subordinate plot in the overall probably familiar tale of a tough town tamer, this script by N.B. Stone, Jr., and Richard Wilson is very well served by an excellent cast, led by Robert Mitchum.

Jan Sterling, a superlative actress not often enough given a character to show her talent, is second billed as a strong and tough woman who chaperones her female charges, who only dance and entertain, but who are seen by the blue-nosed women of the town as something worse.

Karen Sharpe, who has never looked prettier, very girl-next-door-ish, plays the daughter of the town blacksmith who is also the town leader.

The daughter is conflicted but her father, played beautifully by Emile Meyer, is not.

One of the glories of this excellent motion picture is the number of other characters -- I hesitate to say "minor" because they all figure in the story -- whose lives and actions are pivotal.

By one of those coincidences, I just finished a novel by Louis L'Amour with a very similar plot, except the town tamer in "The Empty Land" really doesn't want his role while Mitchum's Clint Tollinger does.

This might be the best script for a movie I've ever watched about a town tamer. It has depth and darkness and a realism not often found in Westerns of the 1950s era. Excellent script and excellent cast make this a movie I recommend.

And you can see it at YouTube. When I watched, it was interrupted by too many commercials, but that's a fairly low price to see it.
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High Treason (1951)
Typical British magnificence; "cold war" thriller, though villains are not labeled
2 February 2018
Acting and writing are as close to perfect as anyone can expect from a movie.

None of the actors are household names today, but each and every one is about as perfect in his role as one could expect, even from those magnificent British players.

Writers created a nearly perfect script, with tension and sympathy, with drama and excitement.

Villains are quite definitely villains -- but not from their viewpoint. They are working for peace and democracy. They recruit new members among those seeking "a world without war" and "a government run by the people."

Surely they are communists, and in reality -- as opposed to what they tell their potential recruits and followers -- are agents of a foreign power, in this case the Soviet Union, but never are they labeled as such.

So a viewer can watch and enjoy without political considerations, with, instead, concern about the intended villainy, worry for the possible innocent victims; one need not think about labels, such as "communist" or "Soviet agent," but ponder instead the fact that collectivist and statist ideologies brush off the fact that violence and initiated force always have victims, however lofty the proclaimed ideals.

One of the policemen tells a leader of the saboteurs, "But surely history, and recent history also shows us ... that wherever people have known the light, they don't tolerate the darkness for very long." Ah, would that that were true.

Even right here in these United States, ignorant or stupid or, yes, villainous people are praising and supporting the darkness. Witness the popularity of Che T-shirts, of riots on college campuses to prevent other opinions from being heard, of street demonstrations created for the purpose of violence -- and if the results are not darkness, and intended to bring darkness, then darkness has not ever been the goal of political violence.

This movie, "High Treason," was produced before most of the people around now to see it were even born, even before I was born. Yet it is still relevant, as warning of what can happen now, and as a history lesson of what actually did happen.

"High Treason" is an excellent motion picture, one I had never heard of before accidentally finding a very good print at YouTube. I highly recommend it. In fact, I urge you to see it.
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Surprisingly good!
30 January 2018
Dubbed movies are, at least for me, difficult to watch in part because the speech always seems out of synch -- and of course is.

This film, known variously as "Johnny Oro" and "Ringo and His Golden Pistol," almost overcomes that difficulty because of very good acting, great scenery (supposedly Italy), many and superlative stunts, and an excellent score.

And even good acting from the dubbers, something I have found rare in the past.

As to that score, I wonder if composer Carlo Savina influenced Ennio Morricone, or if Morricone influenced Savina. There are similarities in their scores, as witness this one and any of the Clint Eastwood "spaghetti Westerns."

But the story here is both unusual and clever. Written by Adriano Bolzoni and Franco Rossetti, "Ringo" presents many and varied characters as well as an involved story of Gringos and Mexicans and Apaches, back-stabbing, cowardice, courage, honor, and, yes, foolishness.

In addition, the chief villain, slimily played by Franco De Rosa, is surely one of the most evil ever portrayed on film.

Mark Damon might have appeared in a better light without a dubbed-in performance, but by and large he made a good ... well, "hero" might not be the correct term here, but as a strong protagonist Damon was quite watchable.

There is an interesting print at YouTube, with the dubbed English and Greek subtitles. I enjoyed it, and can recommend it.
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Cliched beginning leads creatively through excitement to clever ending
27 January 2018
Annoying semi-Brit does everything wrong upon entering West Point, the cliched arrogant, egotistic smart aleck. But it's Hollywood, so of course things are gonna change. How they change is the point and George Bruce, who created the story and wrote the screenplay, has indeed created something, a different take on that cliched beginning.

This movie is rather early in the careers of some very fine actors, including star Louis Hayward, lovely Joan Fontaine, brash and youthful Tom Brown, and one of my favorites, Richard Carlson.

As his bio here at IMDb attests, Carlson started out strong and his performance here is just excellent. He is intriguing to watch with his little byplay when others are the actual center of attention. But years later, he is often stiff or just too mild, almost non-participating in too many roles. Apparently his war years in the military were damaging.

Director Alfred E. Green and cinematographer Robert H. Planck make the most of the athletic events, especially the ice hockey scenes. Even though a few shots seem to be process, they are brief and excitingly cut, and when the sprays of ice splatter into the camera, we are made to feel right there on the frozen surface with the players.

This movie is good enough by and for itself. Some of the alleged rules at West Point were either wrongly portrayed or have changed, but we can accept poetic license and enjoy what is on screen, and even view it as history.compared to today.

I do recommend "The Duke of West Point," and there is a fair print at YouTube.
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Must-see film, especially for outstanding cast, but also for good story
26 January 2018
When Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson and Jack Warden are uncredited atmosphere and bit players, then you know the ones who do get credited will be HUGE names indeed.

Gary Cooper is the nominal star but much more of the action is handled, and handled superbly, by his "junior officers" and the "crew."

One of my favorites is Harvey Lembeck. I cringe at the waste of such talent as Harvey Lembeck in those horrible (except for the girls in swim suits) beach movies. But when he actually gets a part, as here, he just makes it look too easy. Absolutely marvelous talent.

Jane Greer has a few moments to do something besides look beautiful, and she does look beautiful but also handles those other moments too. Another superb talent.

Jack Webb again proves he was a real actor before he became somewhat of a cartoon character as "Joe Friday." This is a rather different part, where his character is a bit more loose and outgoing than his "Joe Friday" or "D.I." roles.

Eddie Albert -- well, what does one need to say? As almost always, he plays a likable character, and plays it so so well, it's hard to remember he's an actor, not that real person you really want to get to know.

Richard Erdman gets one of his best roles. He's another who's nearly always a likable character, but his comedic talents are really on display here. He's another sadly under-rated and wonderful actor.

With a walk-on part is Ed Begley. For his few seconds on camera, he nearly steals it.

Then the magnificent Ray Collins, the superlative John McIntire, and the unknown Henry Slate almost round out the credited cast, and each and every one is just ... just ... how many more superlatives can I find to use? How about "perfect"? They are all such great talents and they get such a great script, this movie is close enough to perfect because of them and it.

Finally, though, there is that excellent veteran, pretty unknown except to movie fanatics like myself, the magnificent Millard Mitchell. He has played practically every type of role Hollywood has created, even Western characters, and played them all to perfection. Mitchell was, simply, one of the greatest acting talents I have ever seen. Here, as the chief bosun, he almost steals every scene he's in.

"You're in the Navy Now" was a real surprise to me. I had never heard of it. And it was called a "comedy." Well, yes, in spots it's very funny. But mostly it's a pleasant type of humor, one could even say "warm."

I highly recommend "You're in the Navy Now," and there's a watchable print at YouTube, occasionally out of synch, but mostly very good. Please try to see this wonderful motion picture.
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Silent Valley (1935)
Excellent cast in good story not well served by very low budget
25 January 2018
Tom Tyler was always watchable, even when, late in his career, he was just a with.

Here he is his good-looking, athletic, masculine best as a stalwart sheriff who is believed to be incapable of doing his job.

He is doubted by the ranchers who are having their cattle rustled, and even by his fiancee, played by the extremely lovely and extremely talented Nancy Deshon, of whom nothing is known here.

Watching her, I believe she was or had been a stage actress, and I believe she should have a long and popular career.

Chief bad guy is played by the inimitable Al Bridge, whose voice would make him stand out regardless of any talent.

The plot takes several twists and turns and the good story really deserved a bigger budget.

Some of the best Western players in Hollywood history, including my favorite Charles King, fill out this talented cast who are well directed and very well photographed in an action-filled story with a surprisingly quiet ending.

I do recommend "Silent Valley," of which there is a good print at YouTube.
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Historical; often more interesting than entertaining; often muddled, but exciting
17 January 2018
"Straight Shooting" is of historical interest for many reasons, including the grouping of Harry Carey, Hoot Gibson, and John Ford.

Even this early in his career, Ford knew how to frame a shot, and many a beautiful shot here involved framing in doorways and windows.

Carey's character seemed often modeled on those so frequently portrayed by William S. Hart, whom Carey in some ways copied: both were Easterners who wanted to be Westerners, and both beautifully presented to us a picture of the rugged and basically decent character we want to think of as the essential Westerner.

Hoot Gibson was about 25 here but looked younger. He never was especially good-looking but he was always, in every movie I've seen him in, likable, and always one of the greatest of cowboys. At this stage, he'd been in pictures for about seven years.

Providing the love interest, but also much more, was a lovely young lady -- though at age 29 not so young as the part she played -- who frequently reminded me of the wonderful Mae Marsh. She seems to be relatively unknown although she has 88 credits here at IMDb, all in silent films.

So, yes, there is motion picture history here, the early years of some movie icons, a foreshadowing of some great careers, but the editing ... oy.

Many early movies suffered from some scenes, frequently static, that seemed to run on and on and on. Even D.W. Griffith allowed some pointless, non-moving shots to just hang, for no apparent reason.

Here we have the exact opposite problem. Probably because of sloppy editing, far too many scenes or angles are just cut off. It's hard to tell who is doing what to whom, and why. Even in the middle of the big battle, people aim, others fall, and it is confusing as to who is who and whether we should care: bad guys or good guys?

Yet, some other scenes, of Cheyenne Harry just staring, do go on and on, a fairly amateurish effort at showing the character pondering ... and pondering ... and pondering. By no means just once.

Perhaps, too, at least part of the problem is the version presented at YouTube. Though official run time is listed as 57 minutes, the version I saw is 2 hours and 13 minutes! For who-knows-what-reason, after "The End," the middle of the movie starts again! (Frankly, at YouTube, many a movie is uploaded by a liar or an incompetent, or both! And there seems to be no way to get YouTube to call down the offender.)

"Straight Shooting" is a movie every Western fan, every John Ford fan, every Harry Carey fan, every Hoot Gibson fan -- and each of those includes me -- should watch, if only for the chance to see the early years of their film work.

More than that, though, it is a good story, with good characterizations, and so intriguing in the directing.

There is a lot of evidence of D.W. Griffith influence, and at least one shot seems directly taken from "The Birth of a Nation." But "Straight Shooting" is generally exciting as well as interesting and very definitely worth watching.
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Different and just wonderful!
13 January 2018
"Thunder River Feud" meant a lot to me, for several reasons. One, I had met Ray "Crash" Corrigan about a month before his death. It was at a Western film collectors convention in Los Angeles. He was still a good-looking and healthy-looking -- he started his career as a physical-fitness trainer -- man, totally deserving of the adulation I and so many others felt.

Then, a couple years later, I met Ted Mapes, who played the villain "Buck" in this film. We used to sit on his front porch and talk. Once he said to me that he and Crash Corrigan had had a lot of fights. I said, "I guess he won them all," figuring he had meant such fights as he and Corrigan had performed in this film.

No, he said, I won my share -- and then I realized he had meant real fights!

Seeing him in "Thunder River Feud," I also realized something else he had told me should have come true: He said he had been under consideration for his own series, but somebody else got picked. Watching him in this, and knowing he was one great cowboy, I concluded he would have been also a great cowboy star, fully capable of all the riding and other action we Western fans want and expect.

He was tall and slender, a good-looking man, and fully capable of handling dialog as well as action.

Ted Mapes continued as stunt-man and stunt double, for Charles Starrett, Gary Cooper, and Jimmy Stewart, among others. (At Ted's induction into the Stuntmen's Hall of Fame banquet, where his induction was second after Yakima Canutt's, Jimmy Stewart and Charles Starrett were the keynote speakers!)

One more reason to love this movie: Max "Alibi" Terhune got to be a genuine partner, showing some acting ability he did not often get a chance to exhibit in his roles, and getting to fight and physically subdue the bad guys.

John "Dusty" King also showed he was a talented actor as well as excellent singer.

All three of the stars gave us, along with the expected excitement and action, an unusual and thoroughly enjoyable display of comedy, very integral to the story and not just silly stuff so often damaging Westerns. Earle Snell and John Vlahos wrote a charming and entertaining script, S. Roy Luby did his usual yeoman job of directing, and the result was a Monogram production of surpassing value.

Westerns on the Web and Bob Terry have earned a HUGE thank you from us Western fans. For years I bemoaned the unlikelihood of being able to see the hundreds, maybe thousands of seemingly lost-to-me movies with my favorite performers and stories. Westerns on the Web has loaded probably hundreds of them to YouTube, which is where I was able to watch "Thunder River Feud." And I highly recommend this movie.
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Great story and script and excellent cast more than make up for low budget
13 January 2018
After watching several Bob Steele movies in a row, I realize I will never get tired of them. He himself was a good actor who just got better and better as his career went on. He was able to steal a scene without saying a word, and did so in later features where he was just a with, sometimes even without screen credit.

When Bob Steele had a script by the prolific George Plympton, he was even better. Plympton wrote this screenplay, adapted from an unusual story by Harry F. Olmstead.

Directing was OK, but nothing special was needed with this superlative cast and good camera work. As Shakespeare said, "The play's the thing."

Among the many stand-outs in this cast, Ernie Adams again surprised me: He played the kind of almost-comic character he just is not noted for. His main claim to fame, and I'm discovering that claim is false, is the sniveling bad guy. Here he is so watchable, so strong in his characterization, I was just dumbfounded in awe.

Another Adams, Ted, gets here what might have been his own best role. I've not seen him in anything before that I even remember, but, here, his character is strong, likable, even admirable, and he handles it all with superlative ability.

Many of the other players seem to be part of a stock company, a stock company of perfect Western performers who should have made hundreds more movies. Yes, in my opinion they're that good.

The print I saw at YouTube is terrible. Sometimes too dark to be able to tell just what is happening. Sometimes it's dark for night scenes, sometimes perhaps because the print is too many generations old. Still for a movie this good, I could put up with the lousy print, and I hope you do too.
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Good cast in good story well directed with bad editing
12 January 2018
Bad editing makes some of the actors, especially Wally Wales, look as if they missed their cues or didn't know their lines.

That is a double shame, because it almost counters some very good directing by Robert Emmett Tansey, who used some really interesting camera angles, some great acting by all the players, perhaps especially by "Little" Bobby Nelson -- who should have continued acting, judging by his excellent performance here -- and great action by the cast and story writers, including Tansey.

Wally Wales was a good-looking and likable man who was a star in silent Westerns but, for whatever reason, didn't have that star power in talkies. He continued making movies for many more years, but mostly in bit parts and as stunt man.

Despite all the grand-standing and posturing by Hollywood and its current denizens, there is not, and seemingly never has been, justice in the movie business.

Wally Wales became Hal Taliaferro later and continued to show both presence and ability.

His leading lady here is an utterly charming Southern belle named Myrla Bratton, from Cave Spring, Alabama. Her Southern speech just adds to her charm, and her acting ability is very evident here. But, again, for some strange reason, she made very few films. What a loss.

This is an imperfect movie, mostly because of the editing, but try to ignore those errors and pay attention to a good story well acted and very well directed.

There is a good print at YouTube and I recommend "The Way of the West."
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Not perfect but excellent, with veteran cowboy players in unusual roles
12 January 2018
Ernie Adams has a very different role here, and he grabs his opportunity with both hands and proves a stand-out!

Budd Buster, here billed as Bud, also plays a very different character from his usual, and again almost steals the entire movie.

Bob Steele is the nominal star, and is, as usual, stalwart, strong, dependable, and full of action. He is such a joy to watch as a cowboy, and especially on horseback -- even mounting his cayuse -- but in his fight scenes, every time I see him battling a villain who is usually bigger than he is, I think, "He could have been a champion boxer."

Very athletic, very watchable, and very much a pleasure to see in action.

The story in "The Gun Ranger" is almost convoluted, there are so many twists, and often the presumed bad guys aren't quite what they seem, and sometimes the presumed good guys aren't either.

Incredibly prolific writer George Plympton is credited as adapter of the story by the not-so-active Homer King Gordon and they have created a good script, crammed full with action and excitement.

Their story is helped immensely by one of the best casts of Western performers, too many of whom don't even get screen credit, such as the talented-far-beyond-his reputation Hal Taliaferro.

There is a fair print at YouTube and I highly recommend "The Gun Ranger."
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Great cast, good script overcome directing and production flaws
11 January 2018
Watching Bob Steele ride is always a treat. Many an otherwise mediocre movie is improved just by his horseback scenes.

Bob Steele just got better and better as his acting career continued. One movie I saw recently had him without a line, without a word to say. But every time he was in a scene, he practically stole it, just standing there, looking fierce.

Here he appears in a different role, gives a great performance, even as his character changes, and shows us once again why he was such a popular performer.

His leading lady is rather pretty, but has very little to do; but the sort-of comic relief gets plenty. Si Jenks was a good foil, with more than silliness to his character.

The brother bad guys all get a chance to stand out, individually. Two, James Sheridan and Steve Clark, in particular get the opportunity to be both funny and evil. And they don't even get screen credit!

One who does is the magnificent Earl Dwire. Dwire had a remarkable range, able to portray really rotten villains, comic characters, and nice ol' gents. Here he plays the chief villain but one who hides in plain sight as a citizen.

The characterizations are somewhat different in this B Western, and the script, with this great cast, makes this a stand-out, able to overcome flaws in the directing and the production.

I highly recommend "The Rider of the Law," available at YouTube as another gift from the wonderful Westerns on the Web.
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