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  • Arthritis and all hurting tonight, I dived anyway into "Guardians of the Wild" (1928) with Jack Perrin and his horse Starlight, Ethlyne Clair, Rex the Wonder Horse, Al Ferguson, Robert Homans, Bernard Siegel, Louise Carver, and others. My print from Grapevine is beautifully tinted and gorgeously photographed by Virgil Miller and George Robinson. Perrin sits a horse well, but otherwise is about as interesting as a cowboy as watching tumbleweeds blow through a desert valley. Nevertheless, here he's a forest ranger, one who has his eyes on Ethlyne Clair. She has her eyes on him, too. But, there's trouble on the range, and her father's ranch is being sought by a baddie in a bad way... Clair needs to go back to Boston while things are sorted out. Well, her father gets in trouble deep...I say, in trouble deep...and wounded bad...and...then there's a fire in the forest...and the daughter - who's come back home and been captured - figure out the rest. BUT...if you didn't put Rex in the formula to solve everything at all times for everyone, then you missed the point of the film. This one was made for the kiddies on Saturday afternoon, but it plays equally well for seventy year old wonderlings just before beddie-by. Not bad really. I'll raise it from 5 out of 10 to 6. Just to be fair to the cast, the best acting honors go to Al Ferguson. When he's bad, he's bad, and he's really good at being bad.

    One coda: beware of Bernard Siegel. Here he plays a Chinois who is servant to Robert Homans (playing Ethlyne Clair's father), and he plays the part as one less than the dust. It's a sort of comical (for 1928) servant to Homans, though it's not funny at all today. Obviously, Siegel's not Chinese, though the character is based on a type that probably was quite real from 1850-1915. Siegel himself plays the part as Won Long Hop. He's plays all over the board before and after this in characters of all sorts, with names such as Tew Fick Pasha, Felipe Varillo, Manuel, Joseph Buquet (in 1925's "Phantom of the Opera"), Toddy Nokin, Do Etin, Schwarz, Chief Brave Bear, Chahi, Verressjeff...well, you get the drift. He played the parts that today one has to be careful to cast. Though not very PC, he's a fine actor. Born in what is modern day Ukraine, he died in Hollywood in 1940 at the age of 72.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I'm amazed there are no reviews for this one. Not only is there a well-worn but super-beautiful tinted print available on DVD, but the movie itself was one of the ten most popular features in the whole Kodascope library. In fact, my local Kodak store had worn out its original copy long before I joined the library. And even their replacement black-and-white dupe had to be ordered months in advance. So why was this little "B" western in such great demand? Legions of horse lovers? Sold-out Jack Perrin fans? Tens of thousands of addicts who remembered thrilling to the movie at a Saturday matinée back in 1928? Frankly, I'm pretty sure the principal reason for this film's extraordinary popularity was simply its short running time. The original 5-reeler ran only 54 minutes. Kodak knocked it down to 4 super fast-paced reels that came in just under 47 minutes. As Kodak discarded all but the main title, I think we can rest assured that neither Jack Perrin nor Rex, the wonder horse, were the main attractions. I think it was simply the fact that the movie ran only 47 action-packed minutes that would not strain the rapt attention of even the most fidgety juvenile audience. And the fact that the story was set against appealing real-life backgrounds would help too. I doubt if the 16 mm audience cared one iota for the size of Perrin's hat or if they reacted strongly to the over-the-top nastiness of the villain (played here with his customary convincing crookedness by Al Ferguson). It was simply the fact that the movie moved fast, had plenty of action and didn't strain the intelligence or the patience of its juvenile audience. And now, thanks to Grapevine, we can add the words, "most agreeably colorful", to the above praises. The credited photographers are Virgil Miller and George Robinson. Virgil Miller! Easily Hollywood's greatest cinematographer! And that's not just my opinion. When Virgil retired, a number of us wrote to him, pleading for interviews. But he declined all our requests because he felt they would detract from reader interest in his own book, "Splinters from Hollywood Tripods". Funny! Although I used to haunt Larry Edmunds, I never saw a copy of that book!