DIRECTOR: George Sherman
The umbrella series of the Mesquiteers would feature 51 films from the mid 1930’s to the mid 40’s and amongst it’s many and varying stars over the series, was a young and up and coming John Wayne.
Clocking in a just 55 mins, this B-movie has all the hallmarks of what would evolve into TV series, with simple plotting, mediocre acting but some riveting action, well shot and composed. But this “Modern day ” western series is a mish-mash of the Old West, with many scenes seeming coming straight out of any western, to a modern 1930’s action piece with planes, trains and auto-mobiles.
It does seem a little odd and it is not clear what we are watching half the time but Wayne (Stoney Brooke) is good, the film is solid for what it is, if not somewhat mediocre.
One of the more interesting footnotes of this movie is the fact that it was Louise Brooks’ (Beth Hoyt), a famed silent star of the 20’s, famed for playing Lulu in G.W. Pabst’s Die Büchse der Pandora, better known as Pandora’s Box (1929), final film appearance; though she went on to live a long life afterwards. Like many silent era icons, she failed to make the transition to sound successfully, mainly due to her disinterest in the craft after a turbulent career. But this was no Oscar piece and unworthy of her talents, few of which were on display here, though nor were anyone else’s for that matter.
Overall, having seen this on a good quality 16mm print, I do not feel the need to pursue any more from this series. Feeling more like an episode of Gunsmoke or High Chaperral or possibly even a decent entry in the early Batman or Superman serials, this felt like a TV episode from plotting to execution as well as the format, even down to the running time, suggests that this was one of the forerunners of the U.S.’ television shows.
If you like John Wayne then it might be worth seeking out the several other “films” from this series to star the Western icon but other than that, this was a curio as far as I was concerned; a taste of pre-war cinema which whilst intriguing to a film buff like myself, was not particularly satisfying as a feature film in its own right.