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

Monday, April 29, 2019

Oklahoma Territory (UA, 1960)

Huge fun

I’ve been reviewing a number of mediocre-to-bad Westerns lately but here at last is an oater you can really enjoy, an almost classic black & white B-movie of an earlier time. Oklahoma Territory is a straight-down-the-trail horse opera of the old style, and all the better for that. It was a Robert E Kent production and was directed by Edward L Cahn, another in quite a series of late-50s, early 60s Kent/Cahn collaborations. See for example Noose for a Gunman, Five Guns to Tombstone, Gun Fight or Frontier Uprising.
Producer and director

It’s interesting because it is one of the few (it may be the only) big-screen picture to feature Temple Houston – although it is said that novelist Edna Ferber based her character of Yancy Cravat in Cimarron on Houston, so you could say that Richard Dix in 1931 and Glenn Ford in 1960 also played him. In the mid-1960s NBC’s TV series Temple Houston featured him as a sort of Western Perry Mason, more detective than lawyer, with Jeffrey Hunter in the title role. This series is, sadly, not up on YouTube and not available on DVD.

Temple, son of Sam, 1860 to 1905, had a colorful career, leaving home at thirteen to join a cattle drive and then working on a Mississippi riverboat. In Texas he studied law and philosophy and was admitted to the bar, the youngest attorney in Texas when he opened his practice. In 1882, Houston was appointed as the district attorney of the 35th Judicial District of Texas, which then covered a large part of the Texas Panhandle, based in Mobeetie, and in 1884 he was elected to the Texas Senate.

Temple as a young man in Texas and a Chicago Tribune pic of 1895

Houston carried a Colt’s revolver, which he named "Old Betsy". Some called him "the best shot in the West." He wore buckskins and a sombrero with a wide brim and a silver eagle. Like his father he was more than six feet tall. He had gray eyes. His auburn hair was usually shoulder-length. His knowledge of the Bible and classical literature was impressive. He spoke French and Spanish, as well as several Indian languages. The historian William T. Hagan described Houston as "a flamboyant figure in his black frock coat and shoulder-length auburn hair topped off with a white Stetson. He liked to lace his arguments with literary allusions and could enthrall a courtroom or legislative chamber." He certainly commanded the attention of an audience.

Houston participated in the Oklahoma Territory land rush of 1893, and in ‘94 he moved his family to the cattle town of Woodward, OT. He was legal counsel of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway; its Woodward depot became one of the most important points in the territory for cattle shipping to the East. Houston became widely known and popular for his courtroom dramatics. He himself was charged with murder in the shooting of a brother of the outlaw Al Jennings, after an argument in the Cabinet Saloon, but was acquitted. In 1899, he delivered his "Soiled Dove Plea" in a makeshift courtroom in Woodward's opera house. The argument on behalf of Minnie Stacey, a prostitute who worked at the Dew Drop Inn, became famous for winning her acquittal after ten minutes' consideration by the jury. Houston had agreed to be a candidate in Oklahoma's first gubernatorial election but died of a cerebral hemorrhage two years before statehood.

In Oklahoma Territory Houston is played by Bill Williams. Bill was probably best known for being Kit Carson on TV in the early 50s but he was no stranger to feature-film oaters too, appearing in twenty-two, from the early Robert Mitchum B West of the Pecos in 1945 to Rio Lobo with John Wayne in 1970, and himself led in five. I liked him in Rose of Cimarron, Son of Paleface, and a couple of Randolph Scott pictures, The Cariboo Trail and Fighting Man of the Plains. He sometimes played the bad guy but was unusual as a goody in that he was blond.


Bill’s Houston is certainly not a railroad man, as in real life. He is more of a Two-Gun Tex lawman than a lawyer, and he is happy, in the finale, to hijack Hanging Judge Isaac Parker’s court and take over, with a revolver in each hand. Great stuff.

Marshal Sande, DA Williams and Chief Ted (who has to spend 95% of the movie behind bars)

Judge Parker is here played by Thomas Browne Henry, the army officer probably most responsible for helping Earth drive off hordes of invading outer-space aliens but also alumnus of very many Western TV shows and big-screen outings such as Saddle Tramp, Law and Order (the 1953 one), Sitting Bull, A Man Alone, The Violent Men, et al. Judge Parker was a popular character in Westerns, and we think especially of Charles Portis's novel True Grit and its two film versions, in 1969 (James Westerfield) and 2010 (Jake Walker), and John McIntire’s part in Rooster Cogburn. The judge also appeared in The Fiend Who Walked the West (Edward Andrews). Hang ‘em High’s “Judge Fenton” (Pat Hingle) was clearly a Parker, and there was a highly amusing (and improbable) gunfighter-Judge Parker in the shape of Dale Robertson in The Last Ride of the Dalton Gang, when he has a final main-street showdown with evil Detective Jack Palance as they face off and draw!

Judge Isaac Parker (1838 to 1896)

But back to Oklahoma Territory. We open with Temple ridin’ along and hearing gunfire in the Oklahoma rocks (which look very like the Iverson Ranch in California but we don’t want to be picky). It turns out to be his old pal Chief Buffalo Horn of the Cherokee, his son Running Cloud and another brave, Sparrow Hawk, who are being shot at by four white men who claim to be deputies with a warrant for Buffalo Horn’s arrest. Temple is all ready to side with his Indian pals but his respect for the law is such that he must uphold the warrant. You see he’s the DA (the movie has made him a DA in Oklahoma rather than the Texas Panhandle).

Temple Houston stands down the lynch mob

Buffalo Horn is played by our old pal Ted de Corsia, always a pleasure to see and often an Indian, as in The Savage, Mohawk and several TV shows. I liked him best as Shanghai Pierce in Gunfight at the OK Corral. His militant and fiery son Running Cloud is X Brands, the Tonto-ish Pahoo in Yancy Derringer but also a Western regular. Sparrow Hawk is very soon shot so doesn’t get much of a part but that was Charles Soldani, an actual Oklahoman.

Ted on trial

Of course Buffalo Horn is innocent. It’s all a put up job. There’s a crooked railroad man in town (I told you it was a proper Western), Bigelow, played by Grant Richards, another regular on Western TV shows but this and a 1936 Hopalong Cassidy oater were his only big-screen Westerns. The real culprit was Bigelow’s unshaven henchman Larkin (John Cliff, invariably a crook, in Westerns from 1949 on when he too was in Fighting Man of the Plains). Larkin killed the Indian Commissioner so that the chief would get the blame and war would result, because the treaty says that Oklahoma will only remain Indian Territory for as long as the tribes are at peace. Cunning, huh.

Although the chief is being framed, the trouble is that the case against him is a slam-dunk. He had motive and opportunity, the knife used was his, an eye-witness testifies and his claimed alibi was not upheld. Oops. Even Temple comes to believe that he is guilty and, well, the law’s the law, so he prosecutes, Buffalo Horn is found guilty and Hanging Judge Parker does not hesitate: the chief must hang by the neck until he is dead. Still, Temple does, in a classic scene, stand down a lynch mob with his six-shooters and demonstrate his courage, grit and respect for law ‘n’ order. More great stuff.


Buffalo Horn’s daughter doesn’t believe for a moment daddy was guilty and is resourcefully trying to get proof. She is Ruth, amour of the DA, and is impersonated by Gloria Talbott, Miss Glendale, California 1947, whom you will doubtless remember from The Oklahoman and Cattle Empire with Joel McCrea, The Oregon Trail with Fred MacMurray and Alias Jesse James with Bob Hope.
Ms Talbott...

...is a Cherokee (as she was in The Oklahoman too)

There’s also a decent marshal (our old pal Walter Sande), a supportive newspaper editor, Ward Harlan (Walter Baldwin, from Ride, Vaquero!) and, on the other side, a crooked politician (if that’s not tautological) from Wichita, Blackwell (Grandon Rhodes, the general in that epic Earth vs. the Flying Saucers) who is in cahoots with the slimy Bigelow. Together they plot to make Temple governor. They think (poor saps) that he will be in their pocket.

It’s all rather a complex plot but you can follow it OK. It rattles along and it sure don’t drag. It was written by an old faithful of Kent and Cahn, Orville Hampton – he wrote A Dog’s Best Friend, also with Bill Williams, then Gunfighters of Abilene, Frontier Uprising and The Gambler Wore a Gun.


There are jailbreaks, gunfights, a posse, courtroom drama, the works, and all crammed in to 67 action-packed minutes. It’s my kinda Western.

It has almost nothing to do with the historical Temple Houston but since when has monkeying with history stopped us enjoying a good oater? And this one is hugely enjoyable. Truth be told, it's probably only a two-revolver picture but well, I couldn't resist giving it three, for the sheer entertainment value. Recommended.
Great stuff


Saturday, April 27, 2019

Mission to Glory: A True Story (TV movie, 1977)


Mission to Glory is not my kind of film, being too close to Catholic propaganda for my taste, though of course any movie subtitled A True Story is likely to be largely fictional. Various men with SJ after their names are credited as technical or historical advisers. It tells the story of a Jesuit missionary in seventeenth-century Mexico and Arizona. He was so saintly and did such good works (according to the motion picture) that I wonder that he hasn’t been canonized or beatified. I must get on to the Pope about it. And although IMDb categorizes the picture for genre as a Western, it is only that by a great stretch of the imagination. As with Bad Jim, about which I was waffling the other day (click the link for that) I only watched it because of its cast. I was seduced by the line-up. And if I tell you that it features Richard Egan, John Russell, Rory Calhoun, Victor Jory, Henry Brandon, Anthony Caruso, Stephen McNally, Tristram Coffin, John Ireland, Ricardo Montalban, Cesar Romero and Michael Ansara, you will doubtless agree with me that this was a veritable Gotha of 1950s Western actors. I mean, you can’t not watch a movie with that cast, can you?
OK if you like that kind of thing

First of all, who was Padre Kino?

Well, Eusebio Francisco Kino, born 1645, was a Jesuit missionary, geographer, explorer, cartographer and astronomer who came from the territory of the Bishopric of Trent, then part of the Holy Roman Empire. For the last 24 years of his life he worked in the region then known as the Pimería Alta, modern-day Sonora in Mexico and southern Arizona. He explored the area and worked with the indigenous Native American population, including primarily the Pima. He proved that the Baja California Peninsula is not an island by leading an overland expedition there in 1699. By the time of his death from fever in 1711, he had established 24 missions and visitas (country chapels or visiting stations).

Bronze of Padre Kino by Suzanne Silvercruys

Equestrian statue of the padre in his birthplace

He is played by Richard Egan, then in his mid-50s and showing it a bit (but hey, who am I to talk?) You will recall Mr. Egan, no doubt, the boss Reno brother in Love Me Tender, second-billed in These Thousand Hills, led in Tension at Table Rock (to be reviewed early next month) and star of the TV show Empire. Here he is the resourceful, courageous and downright saintly priest fighting for right, championing the oppressed and being generally a good egg.

Egan, a far cry from being a train robber Reno boy

John Ireland (he shot Jesse James, in a movie also soon to be reviewed) is a rather more Machiavellian kind of priest, ready to countenance brutal mistreatment of the Indians in the mines because the mine-owners give silver to the church. Other clerics are Anthony Caruso (a regular on Alan Ladd Westerns), Victor Jory (he was also a priest in The Capture, remember), Tristram Coffin (oh, what a splendid name, 60 feature Westerns from 1939 to this one, his last), Henry Brandon (Scar in The Searchers) and Stephen McNally (James Stewart’s evil brother Dutch Henry Brown in Winchester ’73). A motley bunch of clergy, n’est-ce pas?

Good soldier Rory

Bad soldier John

Rory, Ricardo and Cesar are dashing uniformed officers (rather decent types) and John Russell is a soldier too but a very cruel and stupid one. John looks splendid in his beard, easily the rival of Pernell Roberts’s, until he takes his hat off and the grizzled chops do contrast rather startlingly with the sleek black hair. Among the Indians we have Michael Ansara as a chief (obviously). It’s a lot of fun actor-spotting and you have to give credit to the casting director – or anyway you would give credit if the person were credited.

General Montalban

Some of the Indians revolt against this Christianity business, considering it alien to their culture. They also do not care for the way their fellow Indians are exploited and made to provide virtual slave labor, and they certainly don’t like the way Capt. Solis (Russell) massacres them without bothering to wonder who is a good Christian Indian and who a rebel. However, Padre Kino’s compassion and good sense win the day and he negotiates a truce with General Montalban.

It’s all rather sentimental, and this impression is heightened by the soppy music (Jaime Mendoza-Nava).

The movie was written and directed by Ken Kennedy, who also did The Legend of Grizzly Adams but no Westerns except an episode of 26 Men.

Honestly, e-pards, I’d give it a miss if I were you, though hard-core Westernistas will want to glimpse their former heroes of the silver screen in their dotage.



Thursday, April 25, 2019

Bad Jim (21st Century, 1990)

Not good, I fear

The other day I was waffling on about a recent Western, Jonah Hex. That starred Josh Brolin. Well, Josh’s dad, James Brolin, led the cast in his own Western twenty years before that. It was Bad Jim, released by “21st Century”, I imagine a division of Fox.
Brolin père

It was directed, written and co-produced by Clyde Ware, who had contributed to many TV Western shows in one capacity or another from 1964 on, especially Gunsmoke.

Clyde Ware

I was only really interested in this one because it featured Harry Carey Jr., Ty Hardin and Rory Calhoun in the cast. Sadly, however, Dobe, Hardin and Calhoun had cameo parts only and seemed extraneous to the plot. They were just walk-ons, really, and perhaps a way to arouse interest, or names to put on the DVD box. It worked with me but was a disappointment. Dobe looked his usual bearded self and Hardin was in quite good shape, though Calhoun, then 68, looked gaunt and old, only the eyes telling you that it was in fact Rory.



It’s the tale of a trio of cowpokes who turn outlaw. They are Mr. Brolin Sr., third-billed in the 1973 Westworld, as BD Sweetman, the senior puncher; Richard Roundtree, Shaft, quite a regular on TV Westerns, as July; and John Clark Gable, son of the famous MGM actor, as John T Coleman, making three. Brolin was a bit wooden, Roundtree OK, I guess, but Gable was, at least judging by this movie, not exactly Laurence Olivier. You get the impression that he has worked hard to learn his lines, practiced them in front of a mirror and then dutifully recited them on the set. He looks a bit like a younger version of Alan Rickman, only Alan Rickman can act.

Gable Jr.

Actually, Brolin once played Gable’s dad, in Gable and Lombard (1976).

The scene flits back and forth with amazing rapidity between the saguaros of the Old Tucson area to the orange rocks of Sedona. The actors seem to be able to cover the 230-odd miles between them with amazing rapidity. They must certainly have remarkable horses. A horse plays a key role, in fact, because the idea is that the simple cowboy John T Coleman acquires Billy the Kid’s horse (which he names Jim) from a fellow outlaw of the Kid, Virgilio someone (Pepe Serna) and this horse somehow magically turns John T into a badman. I think that was it. He beguiles the other two into following the owl-hoot trail and they start robbing banks and stages and such (though Billy never did that). It’s 1881, you see, just after the death of Bonney.

Actors in costume rob a bank

There’s a bit where John T, saying he needs decent money for once, says, “Ain’t nobody gonna die and leave me nothin’,” and that’s why he turns to outlawry. In fact, Clark Gable left his son (born posthumously) $400,000, so maybe that was an in-joke.

They drift from Arizona into New Mexico, and thence to California, dallying in saloons with ladies of easy virtue. At one point they save a wagon train (Ty Hardin is the trail boss) from attacking Cheyenne. What hostile Cheyenne were doing in California in the 1880s is never explained. Finally they come to a town where a trap has been laid and the three are shot to hell, only one escaping, wounded, and he then decides (I think) to reform and follow the straight and narrow trail of righteousness. I believe that was the gist. Which of the three this is I shall not reveal, dear e-pards, in the unlikely event that you will want to see this movie and don’t want a spoiler. But I can tell you it’s not Brolin or Roundtree.

They get ambushed at the end, it's never explained how or why

Every so often there is rock music.

As with many Westerns of this period, the actors all look as though they are in costumes, perhaps in some Western re-enactment.

Sorry, but this one’s a dud.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Jonah Hex (Warner Bros, 2010)

Pretty stupid

It’s curious, isn’t it, the popularity of superheroes and characters with magic powers. I suppose folk have always had a propensity to believe in the unbelievable. I long ago learned never to underestimate the credulity of people. They’ll believe in any conspiracy theory, and the wilder it is, the more likely they are to swallow it. They’d believe the moon was made of green cheese, especially if it said so in some Iron Age Middle-Eastern text which they follow. I guess the long history of horror films, with ghosts, vampires, walking dead and what-have-you fed into this new trend of Marvel and the like. Anyway, it polluted the Western, our noble genre, too. Jonah Hex is an example. I guess, to be fair, you can at least say that otherwise sensible people are ready to suspend their skepticism for 81 minutes and escape into the world of make-believe, and that’s OK. And, to be even fairer, it’s not as if the standard Western were exactly entirely credible.

None of that excuses a bad film, of course. And Jonah Hex is most definitely a bad film.

Apparently Mr. Hex started in a comic. Wikipedia tells us (so it must be true) that “Jonah Woodson Hex is a western comic book antihero appearing in comic books published by DC Comics. The character was created by writer John Albano and artist Tony DeZuniga. Hex is a surly and cynical bounty hunter whose face is horribly scarred on the right side. Despite his poor reputation and personality, Hex is bound by a personal code of honor to protect and avenge the innocent.” So there you have it.

In the movie Hex (Josh Brolin) also has supernatural powers, such as being able to raise the dead temporarily to interrogate them. Useful skill, that. Naturally he is pretty well invincible. He has twin Gatling guns mounted on his horse.

Ulysses S Grant (Aidan Quinn) is in the White House so we must be somewhere between 1869 and 1877. There has to be an evil genius, of course, a sort of Bond villain ante diem, a megalomaniac who wants to rule the world, or the USA anyway, which is more important. This one is Quentin Turnbull, determined to revive the hopes of the Confederacy, and he is played by John Malkovitch. During the Civil War this Turnbull strapped Hex to a cross and made him watch as the house containing his family was set on fire. Then Turnbull branded Jonah's face with a hot iron. He’s not a nice chap, evidently.

Is it me or is John Malkovitch a serious actor who often chooses to appear in the most dreadful trash? USA Today said “Malkovich seems to have spent the last few decades of his once-impressive career playing variations on the sneering, rage-aholic villain theme. Only his accent and hair length change.” I think they had a point.

It all reminded me of Wild Wild West of a decade or so before, with Malkovitch taking the Branagh part.

One good thing, there are derringers galore. Turnbull even has a matched pair. There are also other weird and wonderful weapons, such as a crossbow-gun, supplied by Lance Reddick, and of course the finale concerns a super-gun, with which Turnbull intends to destroy Washington DC. Turnbull says it was designed by Eli Whitney, which is a bit tough on the old inventor’s reputation.

Many of the characters are listed in the credits only as “Dumbass outlaw”, “Burly guard”, or “Nasty gunner” and this is indicative of the lack of subtlety. Unless it was supposed to be funny.

There’s a whore with a heart of stone (Megan Fox). Apparently Ms. Fox considers this to be her worst movie. I’m not surprised.

Hex whistles and his horse comes, so there are some oldie Western references. There is also a mangy dog which attaches himself to Hex and becomes a companion, not that you feel that Hex has the slightest interest in anyone but himself. We are told that the dog had to spend an hour in the make-up chair to get his mongrel look. I think he was the best actor on the set anyway.

I haven’t the energy to say more. It’s really bad. You’ll have to watch it yourself if you want to find out what happens (an improbable likelihood). I only just got to the end.

It was disastrous at the box office. I saw it (or sat through it) on Netflix, or it may have been Amazon Prime, I forget. One of the two anyway.

After he has saved the world, or at least DC, Hex is invited into the Oval office and Grant offers him a huge badge. “America needs a sheriff,” he announces portentously. Roger Ebert said that “This provided the audience with a big laugh, which sounded like it might have been bottled up for awhile.”

The New York Times was more forgiving. “Though it has bad word of mouth, Jonah Hex is generally better, sprier and more diverting than most of the action flicks now playing, The A-Team included.” Mmm, maybe.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

One More Train to Rob (Universal, 1971)


While the early 1970s were the time of revisionist and often gory Westerns, when former heroes were being debunked and shown as the bad guys (the US Cavalry in Soldier Blue, Wyatt Earp in Doc and Billy the Kid in Dirty Little Billy) the big studios were still trying, against all the odds and in a declining market, to produce ‘mainstream’ Western movies for the theaters. And, in the case of those big commercial John Wayne oaters such as Chisum, Big Jake or The Train Robbers, they were succeeding too, on a box-office level. But in all honesty, some of the ‘straight’ Westerns of the early 70s were pretty stodgy. One More Train to Rob is not The Train Robbers, and a very far cry from some of those classy Universal oaters of the 50s and 60s. Bring back Audie, all is forgiven.
I like the Italian poster best

It was an AV McLaglen picture. Now, with the best will in the world (and you know I have that, hem hem) Mr. McLagen could not be accounted among the top directors of Western movies. He was OK on TV shows – 96 episodes of Gunsmoke to his credit and 116 of Have Gun – Will Travel, so respect there, but as for features, they were lackluster at best. They started in 1956 with Gun the Man Down, a James Arness vehicle, pretty well a spin-off from Gunsmoke and with all the look of a TV movie, and he worked with his pal John Wayne and with James Stewart, but on some of their very worst Westerns, such as the unfunny McLintock! with Wayne and the perfectly dreadful The Rare Breed with Stewart. Westerns with other stars, such as The Way West with Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum and Richard Widmark, were disappointing, even flops. Bandolero! with Stewart again and Dean Martin, was weak, Something Big with Brian Keith was something of a big yawn. Really, McLaglen Westerns were on the whole pretty second-rate.

McLaglen with Stewart on the set of Shenandoah (I think, judging by the hat)

This one, One More Train to Rob, starred George Peppard. Surprisingly perhaps for an actor who made a career of action roles, Peppard only did five Westerns. We’ve reviewed the others, How the West Was Won, Rough Night in Jericho, Cannon for Cordoba, and the TV movie The Bravos, so click the links if you want to read about those. In this one he is Harker Fleet, professional train robber. The movie goes for comedy (but comedy Westerns are notoriously difficult to get right, and McLagen didn’t) and Peppard’s style did lend itself somewhat to comedy, with all those flip comments and so on. The A-Team was nothing but action-comedy, really.

George goes for the amusing rascal vibe

The rest of the cast was hardly stellar. John Vernon plays the bad guy, Timothy Xavier Nolan, with a heavy ‘Irish’ accent. You know Vernon, from Dirty Harry and Point Blank. In Westerns he was the evil Fletcher in The Outlaw Josey Wales, and Hacker in Tell Them Willie Boy is Here, and he made appearances in a number of Western TV shows. He’s OK, I reckon, in One More Train, in a charming-rogue role that a few years before would have been tailor-made for Robert Preston.

Canadian Vernon took the bad-guy part

The leading lady was Diana Muldaur. Who? Well, apparently, Ms. Muldaur was the president of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (the outfit handing out the Emmy awards) in the 1980s. This was her only big-screen Western. She tries, I think, for a Maureen O’Hara approach. You will be the judge of whether she succeeds.

Muldaur as Maureen

Otherwise, we have Robert Donner and John Doucette as sheriffs, so that’s something. Our old friend Marie Windsor is there. Stuntman-director-writer Hal Needham (Smokey and the Bandit) has a role and, though he is sadly very soon written out (we are told he spent his share of the loot on a ranch in Wyoming), Harry Carey Jr. is one of the train robbers. It was the last film of Lane Chandler (as ‘Party guest, uncredited’). All in all, though, these names aside, the cast is a bit ho-hum.

It’s one of those plots where everyone is constantly double-crossing everyone else and indeed it’s quite hard to keep up at times. There are double, treble and quadruple crosses.

Hidalgo Wells, New Mexico. 1870s-ish, I guess. We are told at the start that the train Peppard is about to rob is due at 3:10 (in-joke for Westernistas) and he leaves the arms of Katy (Muldaur) to hold it up. There’s an amusing little boy on the train who is delighted when it’s robbed. “Hot diggedy, it’s a hold-up!” though he is very disappointed when the robbers don’t shoot anyone. When Fleet (Peppard constantly chewing his trade-mark cigar) gets back to Katy, to re-establish his alibi, they are interrupted by the Jones brothers (actual brothers Merlin and Phil Olsen) who ‘invite’ Fleet to a shotgun wedding to their pregnant sis Cora Mae (Pamela McMyler). Because Fleet resists, rather forcefully, he ends up not only married but also doing a three-year stretch for assault. While he is ‘away’, Nolan marries his girl Katy and makes himself the richest man around with the train loot.

Three years later. Fleet has just been released (early for good behavior) when he sees a Chinese mine where the elder, Mr. Chang (Richard Loo) is just loading up gold in a wagon, escorted by local deputies. But before he can rob it, other bandidos beat him to it, and the deputies are in cahoots. The robbers have been tricked, though, for there are only rocks in the strongboxes. They abduct Mr. Chang, to get him to talk. Of course it soon turns out that these highwaymen are employees of Timothy Nolan.

Pretty well armed

Fleet rescues Chang and does a deal with him (but double-crosses are the order of the day, remember) and highly complex plot developments ensue, which you may or may not have the patience to follow closely, and it all climaxes in a big shoot-out in the rail yard augmented by explosions from Chinese fireworks/grenades.

Spoiler alert (though not really as you see it coming in the first reel): Nolan dies and Fleet gets his girl back.

Well, doubtless some of the audience found all this hilarious and/or exciting. I just found it all rather bland. It's not bad exactly. I suppose if you wanted to be generous you could say it’s harmless fun.

George wins out