"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Battle of Rogue River (Columbia, 1954)


Routine





 
 
After many small parts on Gene Autry and Roy Rogers oaters, and some of those Three Mesquiteers ones in the late 1930s, George Montgomery finally got to lead in a Western in the 1941 version of Riders of the Purple Sage. In the early 50s he starred in many a B-Western, many of them already reviewed on this blog, and if he wasn’t the most charismatic of Western actors he was still solid and reliable. Battle of Rogue River, a cavalry Western made the same year as The Lone Gun and Masterson of Kansas, was a typical example.

It was a Sam Katzman/William Castle effort. IMDB tells us that producer Katzman's output “encompassed virtually every genre imaginable. In the 1930s he turned out Tim McCoy westerns for Puritan and Victory, the next decade he was grinding out the East Side Kids series at Monogram, the 1950s saw him making sci-fi opuses and teenage musicals for Columbia and in the 1960s he was cranking out hippie/biker films for AIP and Elvis Presley musicals for MGM.” He was a master of cashing in on a fad and his pictures may not have been fine art but they rarely lost money.
 
Castle & Katzman evidently pals
 
William Castle produced and directed low-budget B-movies, which also specialized in faddy gimmicks in both production and promotion, such as the Tingler, a vibrating device attached to theater seats. He didn’t direct that many Westerns, though three of them were with George Montgomery. They were competently done.

Rogue River didn’t exactly have a star-studded cast. After Montgomery it starred Richard Denning as the leader of a civilian militia, John Crawford as an Army lieutenant and Michael Granger as Chief Mike of the Rogue River Indians, with Martha Hyer (later to become Mrs. Hal B Wallis) as the dame for George to fall for. Denning was in a few Westerns, leading in only one, before he became the governor on Hawaii Five-0. He said, "I'm very grateful for a career that wasn't spectacular. I have wonderful memories of it, but I don't really miss it." He was especially unspectacular in Rogue River. Crawford is mostly known for TV work but he also took a few secondary roles in Columbia Western features. As for Granger, he was another with an unspectacular career. He was only in six feature Westerns and led in none of them. He was often an Indian (Sitting Bull in Fort Vengeance), though heaven knows why because he didn’t resemble one in the least.
 
Solid Montgomery (in 1870s cavalry uniform) and unspectacular Denning (who can't be a goody because he's blond)
 
Battle of Rogue River is a story set during the Rogue River Indian war of 1856 in Oregon. Montgomery is Major Frank Archer, a new martinet fort commander, taking over from a lackadaisical one (good old Willis Bouchey) and Archer is determined to lick the soldiers into shape and wipe out these pesky Indians, using his new-fangled artillery - until orders come from on high telling him to make peace. So he establishes a mutually respectful rapport with Chief Mike.
 
Chief Mike
 
However, there are bad-guy white men who are against statehood and have a vested interest in keeping the Indian wars going, and it soon becomes apparent that they have suborned apparent good-guy Stacey Wyatt (Denning). He lies and schemes to sabotage Major Archer’s truce.

There’s a sub-Broken Arrow vibe to the picture as the Indians are basically goodies and their chief, despite his silly name and war bonnet, statesmanlike in a Cochisey sort of way.

There’s some nice (though unOregonish) scenery shot in Technicolor by DP Henry Freulich and some stirring Mischa Bakaleinikoff music for us to enjoy. In fact the whole picture would be watchable on a wet afternoon.
 
Showdown
 
After mucho skullduggery and an Archer/Wyatt showdown, the chief and the major kiss and make up, the peace pipe is smoked, Oregon becomes a state and Major Archer wins the hand of the girl who has been, it must be said, rather annoying and silly.



 


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Five Guns to Tombstone (UA, 1960)


Pretty dreary




 
 
The 1950s black & white B-Western didn’t die on January 1st 1960. It went on for some time to come. The Robert E Kent-produced Five Guns to Tombstone, directed by Edward L Cahn, was an example.
 
 
Three Guns for Texas, Four Guns to the Border, Five Guns to Tombstone, it was a popular title. However, it is far from clear who the five guns are in this case, as there are a considerable number involved in the over-complex plot.

The cast was less than stellar. James Brown is Billy Wade, former outlaw going straight. No, not that James Brown. This Brown was an athletic Texan who had smallish roles in war films and had bit parts in big-screen B-Westerns from 1947 on. He was most famous, to stretch the meaning of the word famous, as Lt. Rip Masters on Rin Tin Tin. He led in three of these Kent/Cahn efforts in 1960 and ’61.
 
James Brown (left)
 
His brother Matt (Robert Karnes) is broken out of the territorial prison by crooked saloon owner Landon (Willis Bouchey, good as ever and about the biggest star on the set). Matt is tasked with getting brother Billy to come in on the Wells Fargo bullion heist he has planned. Billy lives with his impressionable young nephew (Matt’s son) Ted (John Wilder, later writer, producer and director) and they are trying to make a go of their cattle ranch. Billy wants to complete his going-straightness by marrying the glam Arlene (Della Sharman) but that’s a pretty perfunctory part of the plot.
 
James Brown stands over the corpse of his brother. They were struggling and the gun went off, you know how they do.
 
I won’t try to explain all the ramifications of the story as that would take all day and not be worth the bother. Suffice to say that it involves much double-crossing and a good deal of triple-crossing as well.
Boyd ‘Red’ Morgan (who also did the stunts) and Gregg Palmer have small parts.

There are relatively few good bits. One is when Landon’s henchman Ike Garvey (Walter Coy) is blackmailing him and Landon pulls a derringer on him, which Garvey looks at mockingly and tosses aside.
 
 
The movie’s poster tagline was ‘The Story That Gave Tombstone Its Name’, which it wasn’t.

It’s all done very cheaply and the production values are very reminiscent of the one-hour programmer Westerns of the old days, or a 50s TV Western show. It is supposed to be Tombstone, AZ but the few location exteriors are shot somewhere behind the studios in California. It ends with an unexciting shoot-out in the rocks.

All in all this Western is eminently missable.

 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Texas Rangers (Columbia, 1951)


Rip-roaring




 
 
Popular culture loved the Texas Rangers. Not the real ones, of course, just a highly fictionalized, not to say idealized invented version. As early as 1915 Zane Grey published The Lone Star Ranger, dedicated to Ranger Captain John Hughes, about badman Buck Duane who redeems himself with the Rangers. In 1936 Fred MacMurray was badman-turned-Ranger, in Paramount’s The Texas Rangers, a patriotic picture written by director King Vidor and his wife with Louis Stevens, based on a short story by Walter Prescott Webb but with very Zane Grey antecedents.
 
Real Rangers
 
The early-50s radio Tales of the Texas Rangers starring Joel McCrea was set in the 1930s and there were more ‘Western’ TV series that featured the Rangers, such as the mid-50s CBS juvenile Tales of the Texas Rangers with Willard Parker and the same studio’s slightly more adult late-50s Trackdown with Robert Culp. In the 60s we had NBC’s light-hearted Laredo with Philip Carey. As late as the 1990s we had Chuck Norris as Walker, Texas Ranger. And a new TV series, Texas Rangers, is said to be in development.

Back on the big screen, Paramount made a sequel to the King Vidor picture in 1940, Texas Rangers Ride Again, and in 1949 the Vidor one was remade in color with William Holden as Streets of Laredo. There was the inevitable spaghetti Texas Ranger in 1964. There was a TV movie The Texas Rangers in 1981 and a straight-to-video Texas Rangers in 2001. It seems that the Texas Rangers are an inexhaustible source of inspiration for movie makers.

Not the least of them was Columbia’s 1951 offering, a B-Western really but a lot of fun, The Texas Rangers with George Montgomery as, you’ve guessed it, a badman become Ranger.

It was an Edward and Bernard Small production (though sadly no megalomaniac giant Small logo) and they got old hand Phil Karlson (left) to direct. Karlson had started as a prop boy at Universal and done pretty well every job Hollywood could offer. IMDb tells us that “He made his mark in the 1950s with a series of tough, realistic, violent crime films noted for their gritty location shooting and Karlson's almost fanatic attention to detail”. He only helmed seven Westerns, not a great total. The ‘biggest’ was probably Gunman’s Walk in 1958 with Van Heflin - actually quite a thoughtful picture. But he does a more-than-competent job on this shoot-‘em-up Texas Rangers tale.

George Montgomery (right) was never the most charismatic of actors. His delivery always reminds me of Clayton Moore’s, so I don’t think he was holding his breath much when the Oscars were about to be announced. He'd been tried out as Sam Spade but the plaudits were less than ecstatic, so it was back to the saddle. Still, he did a solid job as Western lead, as various Montgomery oaters we have reviewed on this blog will attest, and this time too he puts his back into the role as Rebel-turned-outlaw who, while serving time in the pen, having been double-crossed by the evil Sundance Kid (Ian MacDonald), is recruited by Ranger Captain John B Jones (John Litel) to serve in the Rangers and track down Sundance and all the rest of the gang of famous outlaws.

Yes, it’s one of those Westerns in which every known baddy is crammed in to the plot, along with a few invented ones. The leader of the bandits is smiling but ruthless Sam Bass (William Bishop) and his Number 2 is John Wesley Hardin (John Dehner), a “gentleman, lawyer and killer”, who is a bank-robber and crook. Thuggish Dave Rudabaugh is there (Douglas Kennedy); in fact he is one of the baddest of the bad men, and is billed as ‘king of the cattle rustlers’. As the snarling Sundance is a gang member, we obviously have to have Butch Cassidy with him (John Doucette). And Jock Mahoney (billed as Jock O’Mahoney) is “Duke Fisher”.
 
The excellent John Dehner is a rather dudish (but murderous) John Wesley Hardin
 
All this is set in 1876, which is a bit odd for a Butch/Sundance tale (Butch was ten years old then and Sundance nine) but never mind.

The intensely silly but amusing plot was written by good old Frank Gruber, who bashed out over 200 Westerns from The Kansan in 1943 to White Comanche in 1968.
 
Frank Gruber
 
Montgomery is Johnny Carver, “the fastest gun in Texas”. The young Ranger calling himself Danny Bonner (Jerome Courtland, later to be director of Dynasty but as an actor he would appear with Montgomery in another oater the following year, Cripple Creek) turns out to be Johnny's young brother, and he urges our hero to abandon outlawin’ and ride the straight-and-narrow trail. Johnny’s sidekick is Buff Smith (Noah Beery Jr on a rather fancy palomino), “a good boy in bad company” who gets religion, likes Ranger life and sides with young Danny in his attempts to reform Carver Sr. But Johnny is determined, Ranger oath or not, to get his revenge on that skunk Sundance.
 
The pards, Johnny, his brother Danny and Buff
 
John B Jones, by the way, 1834 – 1881, was a real Ranger captain, as you probably know, commander of the Frontier Battalion, as it was called, fighting Comanche, Kiowa and Apache. His force did indeed capture Sam Bass, in 1878. In the movie the Rangers are very advanced for 1876: they already have a telephone.
 
John B Jones/John Litel
 
In this story Sam Bass’s gang kills thirty Rangers a month though they never seem to run out and the (unnamed) governor (Charles Trowbridge) tells Jones that if he doesn’t bring Bass and his gang in by the end of the month it will be the end of the Texas Rangers. No pressure then.
 
Smiling Sam Bass

 
The real Sam Bass
 

There has to be a girl, of course. It’s Miss Helen Fenton, publisher of The Waco Star, who is very annoyed at Johnny Carver because her dad was killed in the shoot-out when Johnny was captured (it was Sundance’s slug that did it). Waspish and indeed pompous as she is toward Johnny, you sense that it will be nuptials in the last reel and if you do think that, you won’t be far wrong. Miss Fenton is played by Gale Storm, a Texas beauty who made it big on TV but she had done a few Roy Rogers oaters and had also been Rod Cameron’s love interest in Panhandle and Audie Murphy’s in The Kid from Texas.
 
George with Gale
 
You can spot the likes of Trevor Bardette, Paul E Burns, Byron Healey, Boyd ‘Red’ Morgan, and several others in the bit parts.

Well, one by one the outlaws (and some of the good guys) are killed off (including Sam Bass, Rudabaugh, Butch and Sundance) or captured (Wes Hardin). It all climaxes with a humdinger of a train robbery (I liked the expressmen playing cards on top of the chest holding a million dollars, one raising the bidding seven cents). The whole thing is utterly preposterous and verging on the lurid but a huge amount of fun.

Definitely recommended.



 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Rock Island Trail (Republic, 1950)


Train vs. stage




 
 
A standard plot device of Westerns is the idea of stage v. train. Dodge City opens with a race between the two conveyances, it’s a key element of Stand Up and Fight, the Marx brothers burned all the wooden cars behind the locomotive to win their race in Go West, and so on. You can probably think of other examples. The stagecoach represents the old world and the old ways while the train is symbolic of the thrusting future. Usually the train wins.
 
The stage races the train
 
Republic’s Rock Island Trail starts with stage passengers talking about the new-fangled train, “the darnedest contraption you ever seen”. Forrest Tucker, for once in a lead part and topping the billing, is the chief engineer of the new Rock Island line which races the stage from Chicago to Ottowa, with the winner getting the mail contract.
 
A great deal of fun
 
It’s all pretty standard fare, directed by Republic hack Joseph Kane (well, hack is maybe a bit harsh, let’s say steady hand) but it’s no zero-budget affair. It is a full 90 minutes and shot in Republic’s Trucolor, with some nice location photography by Jack Marta (though of course lots of studio sound-stage shots and cheap back projection). And it’s a lot of fun, too.

Chill Wills is the train driver. Bruce Cabot is the bad guy – and he has a derringer, so that’s good. Grant Withers is there too, as the heroine’s amusingly cynical dad. And Jeff Corey plays Abe Lincoln! Abe wins the case for the Rock Island by calling as witness a boy who fishes, Stinky Tanner (Jimmy Hunt).
 
Posh Constance with her cynical dad
 
Forrest’s amour is the rather posh Constance, played by Adele Mara, regular of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers oaters. She gets to join in with a close-harmony quartet of singing waiters in a chirpy rendition of the title song. There’s plenty of skullduggery by Cabot and his henchpersons and wagonloads of Republic action. You could do a lot worse.

Cabot challenges Forrest to a duel in a saloon and Forrest chooses mops at dawn. That’s a good bit. Later he disarms Bruce of his derringer and uses it to shoot a hole plumb in the middle of the O of the HOTEL sign across the street. Bruce compliments him on his marksmanship and indeed, it was a remarkable shot, aka impossible.
 
 
At one point Constance’s bustle caches on fire. She claims to speak good English: she says, “I may as well be grammatical” but that doesn’t stop her committing the solecism of using most rather than more when asking whether he prefers her or his planned bridge.

There’s a major Indian attack and Forrest gets his Stetson pierced by an arrow. The train crosses a burning trestle. I tell you, most of the proper ingredients for a proper Western are there.
 
Cabot always an excellent bad guy
 
IMDb tells us that “The World Premier of the film was in the Quad Cities, USA, on April 27th, 1950. Republic stars took part in a pre-show promotional parade which extended from Silvis, Illinois, the Home Yard of the mighty Rock Island Lines, at the time the largest rail yard in the world, to the theater in Rock Island, Illinois.

This could be a must-see, e-pards. It's probably a two-revolver Western if the truth be told but I bumped it up to three for the sheer gusto of it.
And the derringer.
 
 

 

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Last Outlaw (HBO, 1993)


Seen worse




 
 
There have been quite a few Last Outlaws. John Ford, no less, directed a 1919 silent of that title, Gary Cooper was in a 1927 Paramount picture of the same name, Harry Carey Sr starred in a 1936 Christy Cabanne-directed RKO talkie. John Ford planned a post-war remake of this Harry Carey one, and signed up Carey and John Wayne for the project, but went for My Darling Clementine instead. And in the 1980 there was a TV mini-series. In 2014 there would be a Johnny Ringo/Bat Masterson The Last Outlaw. So one way and another, the Last Outlaws were never really the last. None of the above, however, had the same plot. They weren’t remakes. The 90s HBO offering was a Quantrillesque tale of ex-Confederates who can’t accept that the war is ended (“The war ain’t never gonna be over,” says one) and become outlaws, hitting “Yankee” banks. It’s New Mexico, 1873.

In fact they start with a bank raid. I liked this bit because the bank manager has a hidden derringer, and you know how I like derringer Westerns. The ruthless gang leader Graff discovers it and asks scornfully, “What the hell is this?” But this derringer is destined to play a key part in the last reel (if TV movies have reels). So that sent the picture up in my estimation.
 
 
The gang was somehow expected in the town and a large posse is ready to gun them all down in a Northfield/Wild Bunch way but Graff gets them out by blowing up the bank with dynamite (only patented in 1867 so he got hold of it pretty fast).
 
Bad guy
 
Mickey Rourke is Graff. Mr. Rourke plays the bandit as more than half crazed and cold as ice. He wears a bandanna on his head and this adds to his piratical appearance. The ‘good’ member of the gang, who comes to reject Graff’s brutality (better late than never) is Eustis (Dermot Mulroney, who had small parts in Bad Girls, Young Guns and Sunset). In fact eventually Eustis shoots Graff when the leader is about to murder wounded gang member Loomis (Daniel Quinn), who is slowing them down. The gang (which includes Steve Buscemi) leave Graff for dead and ride off, with Eustis as their new leader, heading by a roundabout route for Mexico.
 
Bad guy Rourke threatens (relatively) good guy Mulroney
 
The posse chasing them (which includes Rourke’s brother Joey) is led by the equally ruthless Marshal Sharp (Gavan O’Herlihy) who is blond (blond men are rarely goodies in Westerns) and a crack long-distance shot with his rifle. He and his men, including Banker McLintock (Richard Fancy) with an umbrella, are ready to do anything to track down the Rebs and get their money back. And it turns out that Graff isn’t dead after all, and he joins up with the posse to get his revenge on Eustis…
 
Steve is a Reb
 
Both gang and posse are riven by internecine strife, and both are gradually reduced in numbers. The banker and his money take a one-way trip off a cliff thanks to Graff. Finally the gang is down to three, leader Eustis, a Deets-like Lovecraft (Keith David) and an Edmond O’Brien/RG Armstrong-ish Potts (Ted Levine). Lovecraft has some mumbo-jumbo with bones which he throws to foretell the future, and this future doesn’t look too bright. Finally the gang remnants get to the Rio Grande, within sight of safety but…
 
Lovecraft and Potts
 
Well, I can’t tell you any more without a spoiler alert, and you wouldn’t want that. But I bet you can guess there will be a Eustis/Graff one-on-one showdown, and you may not be wrong.

It’s 90s HBO so there are a few f-words and such and the violence is quite violent. But it’s not Deadwood. It's a '15' now. The New Mexico locations are attractive, shot by Jack Conroy, who worked on an episode of The Magnificent Seven TV series, in nice color.
 
The marshal is just as ruthless
 
The director was Geoff Murphy, who directed the same episode of The Magnificent Seven and also did Young Guns. He keeps the pace up. It was writer Eric Red’s only Western. There was one good line, when Potts looks across the Rio Grande and says, “That ain’t Mexico. Where’s the women?”

All in all this The Last Outlaw is watchable.

 


 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

In Old Oklahoma aka War of the Wildcats (Republic, 1943)


Duke drills for oil




 
 
In Old Oklahoma, re-released as War of the Wildcats, is a wartime John Wayne Western, one of the several he made for Republic at that time. It was a ‘companion piece’ to In Old California the year before.

Well, I say it was a Western. It was just about. It’s a 1906 story set during the oil boom in Oklahoma. The bad-guy tycoon Jim Gardner (Albert Dekker, excellent as always) has an “autymobile”, though appropriately it breaks down, enabling Gabby Hayes as Despirit Dean to use his stagecoach to transport people about. Wayne as Dan Somers is a cowpoke back from the war in the Philippines, in 1870s duds and pistol making no concessions to the new century.
 
Cowboy-turned-oilman and rich tycoon, rivals for the hand of the fair Catherine
 
It's a skullduggery story about ruthless Gardner wanting to take over Indian lands to get his greedy hands on the oil that lies beneath them, and decent Dan and Despirit, aided by hotel owner (to put it politely) Bessie Baxter (Marjorie Rambeau, imposing) standing up for the Indians and farmers against the corporate might of the millionaire.
 
Bessie and Gabby with cowpoke Dan
 
But it’s also a rom-com, with glam author Catherine Allen (Martha Scott) falling first for rich, suave Gardner, then, when she realizes how Ruthless he is, for the honest cowboy, who just happens also to be tall and handsome.

That’s about it. Not much plot really, and what there was is rather 30s B-Western in tone, but it adds up to quite a lot of fun, and the last reel is certainly full of action.
 
Romance
 
Dan was also in Cuba before the Philippines, where he palled up with Teddy Roosevelt (Sidney Blackmer), who is now in the White House, which comes in handy when he decides to beat Gardner at his own game and himself extract the oil from the Indian territory, splitting the proceeds 50/50 with Chief Big Tree and his (unspecified) tribe. He gets the concession and it’s war to the knife between the old tycoon and the new one.

Wayne buddy Grant Withers is the oilman who helps him. Other Wayne buddy Paul Fix is the evil Gardner henchman Cherokee who pretends to like Dan but then sabotages his oil rig with dynamite. Dale Evans has a part as the saloon gal Cuddles with long legs (no sign of Roy yet). You can also spot Lane Chandler and Irving Bacon in small parts, and I swear the doc was Will Wright. Yak Canutt did the stunts and is a brawler. You can have quite a lot of fun character actor-spotting.
 
Grant is the oilman who helps Duke
 
There’s a song crooned by the oilmen out on the prairie conducted by Gabby. There’s much dashing hither and, naturally, thither. And it all ends with a thrilling climax as the good guys run wagons full of oil through a prairie fire set by Gardner’s men to get to Tulsa before the deadline. Of course there are final fisticuffs between Gardner and Dan, and no prizes for guessing who wins.

It’s light, entertaining and well handled by director Albert S Rogell, who had helmed Westerns since 1921, put out wagonloads of Fred Thomson, Jack Hoxie and Ken Maynard oaters and would still be directing Broken Arrow episodes on TV into the late 1950s.
 
Director Rogell on the set
 
Recommended.

 

Monday, September 18, 2017

City Slickers (Columbia, 1991)


Dances with Cows

 


 

 
 
After some 1960s-ish cartoon titles and a (rather overdone) comedy version of the bull-running in Pamplona (an event in which I always cheer for the bulls which catch the stupid men) we are presented with an urban comedy in which New Yorkers say witty things. Have we strayed into a Woody Allen picture?

City Slickers is only a Western by a great stretch of the meaning of the word. Yet it does have Western themes and we’ll give it a go.

Three guys (Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby) have a midlife crisis and decide to take a two-week vacation driving cattle from New Mexico to Colorado. So we have the age-old plot of the Easterner tenderfoot out West, which has been going ever since silent movies began. The midlife crisis is, I must say, brilliantly defined by the movie’s producer and star, Mr. Crystal, in a scene in which he tells schoolchildren (who appear to have Mrs. Thatcher as their class teacher) how their lives will pan out. It is bleak and funny in equal measure.
 
The city-slicker trio arrives
 
As the trio arrive out West, the color gets brighter and we see lovely New Mexico locations shot by Dean Semler (Dances with Wolves, Lonesome Dove, Appaloosa, Young Guns) and the music surges into stirring, sub-Bernstein Magnificent Seven-style orchestral richness (it’s actually by Marc Shaiman and Thomas Richard Sharp). And after a build-up, there, in an entrance to die for, is Jack Palance as the trail boss Curly, feared by all ("Did you see how leathery he was? He was like a saddle bag with eyes.") Palance strikes a match by scraping it down his cheek. Phew, we think, it’s a Western after all.
 
Palance allowed to overact but gets away with it
 
Crystal, his writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel and/or the director Ron Underwood (no Western form) had clearly seen and were probably admirers of Red River. There are various references, one even explicit (“the Yahoo moment”). Of course, they have about ten cows so this picture doesn’t have quite the epic sweep of Howard Hawks’s, even if Palance does go for a Wayne-Dunson vibe. There’s also a Deliverance parody aspect.

There is (there had to be) a stampede, or, as one of the city slickers shouts, “The cows are going away!” It is set off by Crystal using his battery-operated grinder on his tropical roast coffee beans. Unfortunately catching the runaways is hard because Crystal has what he calls a roping disability – despite much practice he has never mastered the lariat. But gradually, as we guessed might happen, the Easterner learns, and after delivering a calf he earns the highest possible accolade: Curly says, “Good job, cowboy.”
 
"The cows are going away!"
 
There has to be a river crossing too, naturally, and Crystal finally and heroically manages his rope. Left without a boss (for such a dominant part, Palance’s appearance is very short lived) the greenhorns man up, rather like the boys left without John Wayne in The Cowboys, and bring the herd in, as Curly would have wanted. In a symbolic moment Crystal abandons his baseball cap for a Stetson.

There are some very funny lines and the whole show is certainly entertaining. It works. You get the impression that city slickers the cast and crew may have been but they evidently loved the Western, as, indeed, who among us does not? For did we not, we would be cast into outer darkness. And wouldn’t be reading this blog.