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

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Half-Breed (Triangle Distributing, 1916)


A classic silent Western




 
 
In 1916 top silent-movie personnel got together to make The Good Bad Man, which we reviewed recently, and later that year the same ensemble produced one of the most famous of the early Westerns, The Half-Breed. Starring huge celebrity Douglas Fairbanks, with Sam De Grasse as the bad guy, produced by the Emperor of Hollywood DW Griffith, directed by Allan Dwan and with Victor Fleming at the camera, this movie became one of the great classics of our noble genre. It would be remade (much altered) in 1922 and again as a talkie in 1952.
 
DW Griffith

Allan Dwan

Victor Fleming

In 1978 a partial and badly damaged print of the original 1916 release was found in Dawson City, YT, Canada but most of the version we see today is a 1924 re-release, retitled and also apparently re-edited, by Tri-Stone Pictures, which resided at the Cinémathèque Française, was restored, and re-premièred at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in 2013. Where they exist, the 1916 titles were used; otherwise the 1924 ones. Most of the current print (available on DVD) is of excellent quality, and it’s great to have it. It’s a full feature and has a runtime of 73 minutes.

The story is an early California one, adapted from the book written by Bret Harte, In the Carquinez Woods (1883). We open with a “Cherokee squaw” (uncredited actor) carrying a papoose – she has been, we are told, “betrayed by a white man” and the baby is therefore a “half-breed”. I’m not quite sure what a female member of the indigenous people of the American south-eastern woodlands is doing in Western California but perhaps she was well-traveled.


Bret Harte

Her only friend is an old (white) hermit herbalist (equally uncredited actor) who lives in a remote cabin, and she leaves the infant with him (“I give him back. Make of him a white man,” she says) before committing suicide by leaping from a high cliff.

So the half-breed grows up and becomes Douglas Fairbanks. He was named L’Eau Dormante, a translation of his Cherokee name of Sleeping Water, but the white men anglicize this into Lo Dorman.

Rather daring shot of child of nature Lo

When the old man dies, brutal white men, looting the cabin, turf Lo out because an Indian can’t hold land in California. So Lo begins his wanderings and makes a home in the hollow trunk of a great redwood.

In the town of Excelsior, whose social hub is the Palka Saloon, we see Negro and Chinese dealers, perhaps subtly indicating, in that 1910s casually racist way, the lowness of the dive. But in fact this film is one of the less ethnically discriminatory pictures of the day, and many of the title cards stress the nobility of the half-breed (it’s a Rousseau-esque ‘noble savage’ agenda) and refer ironically to the ‘superior’ and ‘civilized’ whites, portraying them as rogues and lowlifes. We sometimes forget, in fact, how pro-Indian many of the silent Westerns were.

Innocent Lo has to deal with supercilious pastor, sheriff and express messenger

We meet Pastor Wynn (Frank Brownlee as Frank Brown Lee, actor/writer stalwart of the silent Western) pompous and racist scoundrel, and his flirtatious, capricious and malicious daughter Nellie (Jewel Carmen, famous for her lead role in Daphne and the Pirate the same year). The title card tells us about her: “Expensively educated, she was profoundly ignorant in two languages, with a trained misunderstanding of music and painting”. We also meet two of her admirers, Jack Brace (George Beranger, the second Cameron son in Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation the year before) who is the express company messenger, and the crooked Sheriff Dunn (eternal villain Sam De Grasse). And, it is revealed, the wicked Sheriff Dunn was also the man who fathered Lo and deserted the Cherokee “squaw”. He will doubtless get his come-uppance in the final reel.

Nellie thinks a lot of herself

Gentle, innocent Lo walks into the hotbed of hypocrisy and corruption and promptly falls for Nellie, the poor sap, thus poking a stick into the hornets’ nest of small-town racial discrimination, lovers’ rivalry and parental snobbery. Of course Nellie leads him on. When her pa, the pastor, warns Lo off (“In the future, try to remember that, after all, you are an Indian”) Lo is uncomprehending and sad.

Now we meet yet more key characters, Dick Curson (on cards later in the film referred to as Dick Carson), a banjo-strumming mountebank magical-elixir salesman, played by Tom Wilson, a member of the Fairbanks/Pickford stock company, and his companion, the abused Teresa (second-billed Alma Rubens, who became a big star in the 20s but tragically became addicted to heroin and went in and out of various asylums). Curson/Carson gives alcohol to some Indians and incites them to dance, and they are mocked by the white patrons of the Palka. Lo, ashamed at what is being done to his people, drives the drunken men off. Teresa recognizes purity in Lo and advises him to leave this filthy town. “Your place is out in the woods with the clean things.” Lo agrees and trudges despondently off.

Teresa is armed and dangerous

Teresa, desperate at the mistreatment she receives from Curson, can take no more and stabs him. It doesn’t have the desired effect, though, because Curson declares admiringly, “That’s what I call love!” She also stabs the sheriff when he arrives to arrest her, then she flees to the woods, searching for Lo, pursued by a small posse. Lo will save her from the pursuers and give her shelter in his idyllic redwood home. Both Curson and Dunn land in the hospital.

Well, I won’t recount all the events and plot, but suffice it to say that there is much dramatic action, including a climactic forest fire (set by the drunken Indians) and you may imagine that Lo will find true love with Teresa, yet nay, for this time amor non vincit omnia, dudes.

Fairbanks does a great job

Wyatt Earp, then 68, is said to have been a face in the crowd in town.

Fairbanks, looking very Hawkeye-ish in buckskins and coonskin cap, is characteristically athletic. I once, in my youth, knew an old boy who had been a pal of Fairbanks in the 20s and he said that even when they were just walking along, Doug would suddenly leap up onto a tree branch or swing from a rail, just to keep in trim.

Variety said, “The story is well told in film form and the wonderful forest locations used for the picture make it seem most impressive. Mr. Fairbanks will add a number of admirers to the host who hold him as their own particular screen favorite. It is a picture well worth playing by any exhibitor.”

True, dat.

 
 


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Good Bad Man (Triangle Distributing, 1916)


Douglas Fairbanks is Passin' Through





 
 
The whole notion of the good badman is fundamental to the Western. Central characters with a murky past who come good and act heroically are a staple of our noble genre, and that has been so since the earliest days. William S Hart made a specialty of it. An absolutely classic example was The Good Bad Man, with Douglas Fairbanks in the leading role. Some posters for the movie called it The Good Bad-Man, and whether it's bad man, bad-man, or badman, well, you can take your pick. The idea is the same, and it concerns an outlaw or a man with a criminal, tragic or misunderstood past who comes through, despite all, to heroism.
 
Will Bessie Love him?

The Good Bad Man was made by silent Western royalty. It was “supervised by” (we would probably say ‘executive producer’ these days) DW Griffith, the undisputed crowned head of the silent cinematic oater. The Good Bad Man ranks with DW’s great Westerns such as Ramona (1910), The Battle of Elderbush Gulch (1913), Martyrs of the Alamo (1915) and The Half-Breed (1916).

DW

The Good Bad Man was directed by Allan Dwan, one of the most prolific of all Hollywood directors. He has 407 credits on IMDb, 175 of which were Westerns, from The Claim Jumper in 1911 to The Restless Breed in 1957. It’s a remarkable record. The Good Bad Man was only the second of his feature Westerns.

Allan Dwan

And Victor Fleming was at the camera. Fleming started as a stuntman in 1910, became a cinematographer and then moved to directing. He is perhaps most notable to us for helming the greatest of all the versions of The Virginian, the first talkie one, with Gary Cooper, in 1929.

Victor was at the camera

So when you look at those behind the camera, you have a veritable aristocracy of the silent Western. As for the cast, Douglas Fairbanks was perhaps the biggest star of them all in the silent days. He was a founding member of United Artists and the Motion Picture Academy and hosted the first Academy Awards in 1929. With his marriage to Mary Pickford, the couple became Hollywood royalty and Fairbanks was referred to as "The King of Hollywood". All this was still in the future when The Good Bad Man was released but he was nevertheless one of the biggest stars around in 1916. He wrote and co-produced The Good Bad Man. Yes, he is better known for 1920s swashbuckling roles like The Thief of Bagdad, Robin Hood and The Mark of Zorro but he did do Westerns – the genre was an integral part of the whole motion picture industry in the early days. The same year as The Good Bad Man he did his most famous, The Half-Breed, with much the same cast and crew, and we’ll be reviewing that soon.

Megastar of the day

Supporting him was the great Sam De Grasse. Sam was the go-to disreputable, nasty, slimy bad guy of the silent movie. Want a villain? De Grasse is your man. He was the wicked Prince John in Robin Hood, for example. He occasionally did goody (he was Silent Smith in Martyrs of the Alamo) but for Griffith, Dwan and Fairbanks he was the black hat. In The Good Bad Man he plays the boss of the gang of outlaws, known as The Wolf. He is splendidly ruthless and cruel.

Bad guy Sam

The heroine, known in the film simply as The Girl (as was often the case in silent movies) is Bessie Love. Texas-born (her pa was a cowboy), Bessie, then 17, became a Griffith protégée and would make it big in the 20s. In 1916 she was still relatively unfamous but still part of the stock company. She did twelve Westerns: eleven silent ones from 1916 to ’27, and, bizarrely, the paella western Catlow in 1971!

Bessie Loves him

The 5-reel (50 minutes) The Good Bad Man was made by the Fine Arts Film Company (86 films, 1915 – 17) and released in May 1916 by Triangle Distributing. Sad to relate, no copies of this picture are known to have survived. However, the rights were bought by Tri-Stone Pictures, which re-released it, revised and retitled, in 1923. And a copy of this version was found in the Cinémathèque Française and restored in collaboration with the Film Preservation Society, being premièred at the San Francisco Film Festival in 2014. It is quite splendid visually and the quality of the print now available on DVD is superb. It was filmed in the Mojave (Griffith pioneered location shooting) and the long shots especially are really impressive.

The story is set “in a remote district of Wyoming” as a title card tells us (The Virginian territory, the first film version of which had come out two years previous). We open with a trick roper (uncredited) twirling his lasso and we see old-timers “swappin’ stories” at the camp fire. They tell of the exploits of outlaw Passin’ Through (Fairbanks) who has a definite smack of Robin Hood about him. We see Passin’ Through holding up a train “but he took only the conductor’s ticket punch”, then he makes all the denizens of a saloon put their watches on a table and tells them that they must now grab their timepieces back but anyone who gets the wrong one must pay him five dollars (he leaves the saloon with a hatful of money which he gives to poor Yuma Kate), and finally he robs a grocery store (the grocers overact dreadfully) and gives the sack of goodies to young orphan Little Bill. We are told that Passin’ is “a queer cuss” who “makes a specialty of helpin’ kids that’s born in shame”.

Laughing Passin' Through is arrested

After these character-establishing scenes we move to The Wolf’s lair outside Maverick City. Being an outlaw, Passin’ asks for shelter with the outlaws who guide him to a paralyzed old man and her daughter (Love), “a white flower among the poisonous weeds”. Of course it’s lerve pretty well at first sight, though naturally Passin’ is ultra-respectful and well-behaved with the maiden. The trouble is, outlaw king The Wolf (De Grasse) has already set his cap (or Stetson) at the fair Girl and so he is furiously jealous at Passin’ muscling in.

Passin’ draws his (late model) revolver, tosses a playing card up and shoots the center of the ace of spades out of it, greatly impressing The Wolf, who tries, later, the same trick but fails dismally. Passin’ tells the Girl that “I never had no father” – daddy was shot in the back when Passin’ was a young ‘un - and his ma was scared all the time and that’s why he became a badman.

Passin' robs the grocery store

The next scene is set in Maverick City itself, chiefly in the saloon. There’s a “peace-loving but ineffective sheriff” (Fred Burns) but it’s really The Wolf who rules the roost. He smokes a fat cigar (Cuban, it looks like) and he drinks whiskey. Prohibition was still four years away when the film was first released but alcohol was already greatly disapproved of by the bourgeois (at least publicly) so when a character pours himself a whiskey that’s a sure sign that he is a bad guy. And of course when the picture was re-released, in '23, Prohibition was in full flood.

US Marshal Bob Evans (Pomeroy Cannon) appears on the scene and in the gang there’s a sinister Indian (Griffith, like many at the time, was quite casually racist) who leers at the Girl and even seems to want to assault her in her bedroom. Shivers of horror in the audience. Passin’ guns him down. Phew.

Uncredited Indian horrifies the audience

But The Wolf abducts the Girl and now there’s a posse, one of those that gallops in pursuit, shooting in the air. It is revealed who it was that shot down Passin’ père all those years before (you may guess). The marshal and The Wolf have a showdown and both are hit but The Wolf’s bullet hits a locket and the marshal is not killed. Unlike The Wolf, for whom it is RIP. Passin’ and the Girl ride off over the border together (the Canadian border?), The End.

Dramatic stuff, you see.

The acting is good (Fairbanks was clearly enjoying himself as the laughing bandit) and with a few exceptions there is very little of the absurdly over-the-top melodramatic thespianism that often disfigured these silent movies (including those of Griffith). Fairbanks, De Grasse and Love keep it in check. Action, romance and comedy are skillfully blended.

There are some key silent movies in the history of the Western, and this is one of them. It’s fortunate that such a high-quality print of it is available for us all to enjoy.

 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Take Me to Town (Universal, 1953)


Folksy Americana




 
 
Take Me to Town was directed by Douglas Sirk, and though on one level an overly bucolic rural story (hardly a Western at all) it does have some of typical Sirk themes, showing up bourgeois hypocrisy and suggesting that over-restrictive convention can stifle authenticity and goodness. It also showcases Sirk’s love of melodrama. He only did one proper Western, Taza, Son of Cochise with Rock Hudson, a Universal sort-of sequel to Fox’s Broken Arrow which was released the year after Take Me to Town, and Taza was weakish. So we can’t really think of Sirk as a ‘Western’ director. He helmed Take Me to Town competently, within its limits, but it is more saccharine musical comedy (and thus not my scene) than real oater.
 
Director Sirk

It was really an Ann Sheridan vehicle for she dominates the show (and it is a show) as Vermilion O’Toole, tough showgirl with a heart of gold. In the first scene she gets Marshal Ed Daggett (Larry Gates, five Westerns but no big parts in them) to take off her cuffs so that she may use the ladies’ room on the train and then jumps from the window and hoofs it to the next station where she buys a ticket with her last few dollars (stored in her garter, naturally) to Timberline, a logging town with an ‘opera house’ (saloon/casino/bordello). There she appears on stage for her friend Rose (Lee Patrick), excuse for a song. Timberline was probably the one where Stagecoach West would start.

It's a Sheridan showcase

Marshal Ed Daggett, by the way, must have been a relation of Little Bill Daggett’s. Maybe brother. He’s a good deal less tough than brother lawman Bill, though, as viewers of Unforgiven will know.

Now we meet three tow-headed kiddies, the oldest brother and leader of whom is the excellent Lee Aaker as Corney Hall (it was the same year he did Hondo with John Wayne and the year before Rin Tin Tin). I always thought he was the boy actor with the most oomph. He did ten feature Westerns and was excellent in all of them. Harvey Grant and Dusty Henley are Hall minor and Hall minimus. These tykes are quite amusing but I’m afraid Sirk and his writer (Richard Morris) overdid it, and the children eventually weary us, turning from cutesy into tiresome.

Lee does it with gusto, only 9 but chock-full of character

Their dad is Sterling Hayden, Will Hall, though he only appears for 30 seconds in the first reel, just long enough to say goodbye to them as he is off to the logging camp to cut timber. He’ll be back in the second half of the movie, to fall for Vermilion, but for the moment we don’t see him.

For Hayden it came between Kansas Pacific and Arrow in the Dust, infinitely better Westerns

Marshal Daggett turns up now, on the stagecoach, looking for Vermilion (whom he knows as Mae) and her accomplice, slick saloon man Newt Cole (Phillip Reed, Uncas in the Randolph Scott The Last of the Mohicans). Newt had biffed the marshal on the head while Mae was escaping, KO’d the lawman and also jumped from the train.

The boys turn up too, though their pa told them to stay put, on the lookout to recruit a Timberline woman as a husband for their daddy (a widower). They want a new mom and they are very afraid that Dad will opt for Mrs. Edna Stoffer (Phyllis Stanley), a bluestocking of the worst kind, unless they can find a more suitable candidate. Naturally they alight on the glam and sassy Vermilion and decide she will make an ideal wife/mother. She is nice to them but of course pooh-poohs the idea, until the marshal gets too close and she feels that the boys’ remote cabin might be a better bet, so she skedaddles with them. Yes, I know, probability isn’t this film’s strong point.

Once the hatchet-faced biddies (inc. Edna) get wind of the fact that there is a brazen showgirl in Will Hall’s home, and a redhead to boot, they are scandalized. For you see it is now revealed that Hall is the local preacher.

Edna is scandalized

Well, you may guess the outcome. Vermilion saves the smallest boy from a bear, which she shoots, more by luck than judgement, and then joins in the committee of town ladies aiming to raise money for a new church. Of course she wants to get the loot by putting on a show – excuse for more songs.

The biddies are won round, Newt re-appears and there’s a sub- (very sub-) Anthony Mann showdown in the rocks (they are clearly fiberglass rocks) in which Newt naturally gets his come-uppance. There's a waterfall there too and Sterling would return to it the following year in Johnny Guitar. Vermilion becomes the Sunday-school teacher. We last see the new happy family happily bathing in a pool wearing matching swimming costumes made for them all by Vermilion (who is also a talented seamstress and cook, obviously). The End, and not before time (at 81 minutes it’s too long).

Tall tale indeed

There’s nice Technicolor scenery by Russell Metty and cheerful Joseph Gershenson music. The whole thing is harmless enough, if innocuous. Family-friendly and all that. It made a few bucks at the box-office. Doubtless the picture still has its fans. In a way it’s a slice of folksy backwoods Americana and if that’s your bag, go for it. The New York Times remarked on its “ponderous dullness”, though, and Brian Garfield dismissed it as “sentimental nonsense”. Personally I agree with them; I like my apple-pies with less sugar. Sterling seemed to be going through the motions but Sheridan throws herself into it.

Lane Chandler, Fess Parker and Anita Ekberg have bit-parts.

 

 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Gunfire (Lippert, 1950)


Don 'Red' Barry is Frank





 
 
When B-movie studio Lippert had a (for them) big hit in 1949 with I Shot Jesse James, starring John Ireland as Bob Ford, they of course wanted to milk it for all they were worth, and the year after they came out with I Shot Billy the Kid, with Don ‘Red’ Barry and Robert Lowery, released in July, and the same team made another post-Jesse story, Gunfire, also known as Frank James Rides Again, in August, then they brought Ireland back for the sequel The Return of Jesse James in September. They couldn’t use the title The Return of Frank James because Fox had snaffled that in 1940 for their sequel to Jesse James in 1939.

None of these Lippert sequels was a patch on the original I Shot Jesse James, which had been written and directed by Samuel Fuller and was, though pulp fiction, then clutched to the bosom of East- and West-Coast intelligentsias and French cinéphiles. The Lippert follow-ups were just cheap exploitative rip-offs designed to make a buck or two in low-rent Mid-West theaters. But they weren’t Z-movies. They all had something, some limited something, about them. They are no great Westerns, far from it, but they are just about watchable.

The idea behind Gunfire is that after the assassination of Jesse, a certain outlaw, Bat Fenton (Don ‘Red’ Barry) is a “dead ringer” for Frank James (Don ‘Red’ Barry), and decides to use that happenstance to pretend to be Frank, robbing banks, stages and trains and striking terror into the hearts of the citizens of Colorado (the story centers around Creede). The James gang rides again. This was of course exactly the plot of The Return of Jesse James.

Barry was a bit of a sad case, really. Born Donald Barry de Acosta, or possibly Milton Poimboeuf, in 1912, he reached his peak of Western stardom, such as it was, in the early 1940s.

Don 'Red' Barry

His first Western appearances were in two of Republic’s Roy Rogers/Gabby Hayes oaters of 1939, when he was 27. In between these two he was fourth-billed, after John Wayne, Ray Corrigan and Raymond Hatton, in a Republic Three Mesquiteers film, as the eponymous Wyoming Outlaw.

But his real breakthrough came in 1940 when he starred as Red Ryder. Though Red Ryder was tall in the comic strip and Barry was only five foot four (1.64m), luckily he had a boy sidekick who was even shorter.

Don as Red Ryder

You’d have to be quite elderly now (even older than I am) to have grown up with Red Ryder. The comic strip created by Stephen Slesinger and artist Fred Harman began in November 1938 and moved to radio in 1942. Despite two pilots, it never made the vital leap to television and was therefore doomed to perdition. However, as a juvenile twelve-chapter Republic movie serial The Adventures of Red Ryder it was enormously successful. There followed no fewer than 27 Red Ryder films between 1944 and 50, but not with Barry. Wild Bill Elliott, then Allan ‘Rocky’ Lane and Jim Bannon played Red. The 1940 hit had been enough, however, to give Donald Barry his nickname, and he was forever after Don ‘Red’ Barry.

It was downhill from there on, though. He launched his own production company (Gunfire is announced as A Donald Barry Production) but erratic and difficult behavior made film roles increasingly rare. In 1954 he got the lead in a shockingly bad picture released by United Artists, Jesse James' Women, which he also co-produced, co-wrote and directed. He was second-billed to the ‘comic’ Judy Canova at Republic again in Untamed Heiress. He got smaller and smaller parts. Ego, bad temper and alcohol-fueled domestic disputes combined with lack of work and pushed him into depression, and in 1980 Don ‘Red’ Barry committed suicide. It was a tragic story, really.

As for Robert Lowery, he was Batman in 1949 but he did quite a lot of Westerns, starting with small parts in A-movies, in John Ford’s Drums Along the Mohawk and in the Tyrone Power The Mark of Zorro, but after that it was pretty well B-Westerns all the way. He co-starred with Don Barry in The Dalton Gang in ’49, then Border Rangers and these two Bs, I Shot Billy the Kid (in which he played Pat Garrett) and Gunfire, in 1950.

Lowery is the lawman who gets Bob Ford

In The Return he is ‘John Kelly’, the fellow who shot Bob Ford in Creede. We see the Main Street showdown in which Ford (Roger Anderson) draws on Kelly but Kelly gets him with a shotgun. Much of the plot and even some of the characters (with different actors) were taken from I Shot Jesse James, so Lowery is the law in Creede (the real assassin of Ford, Kelley, or O’Kelley, wasn’t, of course) and we also get the fictional character Cynthy, whose favors both Bob Ford and John Kelly solicit. In I Shot Jesse James Cynthy was played by Barbara Britton; this time Pamela Blake does the honors.

The epic was produced, written and directed by William Berke (so there aren’t many others to blame). Berke (who also did Border Rangers), director Richard Fleischer recalled, "was known as King of the B's. For years and years he had made nothing but pictures with ten or twelve day shooting schedules, minuscule budgets of about $100,000 and no stars. Without bothering with editing or any postproduction chores and with short shooting schedules, he was able to squeeze in eight or ten pictures a year. And he was going nuts".

Wm. Berke

We open with an outlaw Matt Riley (Steve Conte) visiting Frank James (Barry). Frank is very respectable and the movie perpetuates the myth that Frank James got religion. Barry’s Frank is reading scripture. “Holy Bible, huh?” says Riley. And Frank quotes it to all and sundry, using the “vengeance is mine” bit to justify his not going after the Fords with a gun. He has an apple-pie wife and two perfect kids, to enhance the ‘perfect family man’ image. Actually, his wife, Emily (in fact it was Annie) is played by Barbara Woodell. Now Ms. Woodell was a serial Mrs. James because she played Jesse’s wife in both I Shot Jesse James and The Great Jesse James Raid in ’53. Frank’s young son lies to Sheriff Kelly to give his dad an (unnecessary) alibi and Frank takes off his belt in order to beat the child, to teach him not to lie. This is meant to indicate Frank’s decency and probity to the audience. I don’t think it would these days.

There has to be some comic relief so we get a vaudeville turn from Wally Vernon as Clem, a drunk in the saloon whom Sheriff Kelly takes on as a deputy to reform him (he sobers up and shapes up). Vernon was a New Yorker with quick-fire Runyonesque diction and a fish out of water here but he did a dozen oaters with Barry.

The ensemble: left to right, Mrs. Frank James, Frank, Cynthy, Kelly, the two James children, with Clem indisposed, front on couch

Frank does go after Charlie Ford, though, despite the strictures of scripture and the pleading of his spouse. He has a consumptive cough as he rides along. Meanwhile, the faux Frank James, outlaw Fenton (Barry, also), is robbin’ banks and stages and trains with gusto, showing his face and having his accomplices call him ‘Frank’ so that everyone now thinks Frank James is back on the owl hoot trail.

There’s a crooked saloon owner (obviously), Simons (Leonard Penn) who has a saloon gal named Flo (probably short for Floozy) played by Jan Sterling. He gives the gang the lowdown info. It will not end well for him.

Despite the minimal budget there are a few exterior location shots (Iverson Ranch, it looked like) but of course the majority is done with cheap interiors, with the characters explaining the plot to each other. The quality of the image on the DVD isn’t bad, though. It’s black & white, of course, and comes in at only 59 minutes, so it was almost certainly designed as a second feature.


It’s no worse than many a B-Western, I suppose, though not much better either. Still, you could watch it, especially if you are a Frank & Jesse fan.