thatcow

Early prototype action movie formula

The Westerns channel is not the first one I turn to, but with nearly every other channel featuring something I'd already reviewed, I found this early, early John Wayne film starting, and thought "why not?"

This one really shows its age. A young Wayne, as John Travers, starts the film by robbing a stagecoach, his Indian... native American friend Yak watching from nearby. It's interesting how the movie rolls with nearly a minute of our hero being simply ordinary - hitching up his horse, waiting for his friend to show up in his canoe. The soundtrack, while not entirely empty here, is still nearly dead. It feels like they mixed up the order of the reels. We should have started at the robbery, with Travers dropping dramatically from a tree branch, not needing the stage to even stop before taking flight.

After robbing the stage, another two people rob it, but when they learn the loot is already gone, they shoot the driver and shotgun man. We can see the Hayes Code in full force here, as they cut away to the lady passenger inside the coach during the shooting. The horses spook and we go to chase mode as Travers hears the passenger screaming and is compelled to save her.

They go into town just as the newly sworn in sheriff is mysteriously shot. There's some smoke hanging in the street, but no apparent source. The townsfolk reckon after losing three sheriffs this way, nobody else will want the job. But Travers volunteers. If we weren't sure before - seeing how this was shot in 1934 under the Hayes Code and it was forbidden to show crime in any positive light - we are now certain Travers is the Good Guy.

The now requisite Bad Guy turns out to be The Shadow, who seems to be your standard greedy sort, who happens to do a lot of business so that people don't see him. His henchmen open a little door in a wall at the Cattlemen's Club to get their orders.

The rest of the film is what we would see as pretty conventional today. Various chases and shooting, the kidnapping of the lady passenger - who turns out to own some important land The Shadow wants, and plenty of stunts. To someone in 1934, watching the film would have plenty of "I can't believe they did that" moments, which are practically nothing to today's fickle, cgi-effect laden audiences. But really, how many of you would jump off a cliff into water or tumble down a hill with a horse?

The plot is predictable and lacking in detail. Admittedly, this is fairly short - about 50 minutes - but it's possible to fill the time with more actual acting than we see here. But, like I say, this is just an early prototype for an action film - they pack in all the action possible and surround it by enough story for it to make sense, and call it good. It's not quite good enough though, for The Star Packer. And the title? Well, Travers is really a U.S. Marshall, but blink and you'll miss that information...

I wonder if any of the other channels have something on yet I haven't seen.

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