16 March 2019 | kevinolzak
Dorothy Debastian and Boris Karloff
1930's "The Utah Kid" was a Poverty Row Western from Tiffany Pictures, a small outfit that did over 100 features between 1921 and 1932 (one of their last was Bela Lugosi's "The Death Kiss"). The star was Rex Lease, a veteran of oaters on screen and television for five decades, but whose starring career would already peter out before the 30s were over. Here he's in his prime as wanted outlaw Cal Reynolds, managing to escape the sheriff's posse to make his way back to ringleader Butch (Tom Santschi) and the gang at the aptly named 'Robber's Roost.' No sooner does he walk through the door than henchman Baxter (Boris Karloff) enters with a rare treasure in these here parts, a pretty (and pretty desperate) maiden named Jennie Lee (Dorothy Sebastian), eyed lasciviously by every desperado in sight (the funniest bit in the picture). Naturally, Cal decides to challenge the status quo and proclaim the young beauty to be his fiancée, which would normally be enough except that the Roost happens to have its own parson (Lafe McKee), forced to perform the wedding ceremony on the spot. Jennie's dignity remains intact after a chaste honeymoon, galloping off with her husband's horse to her destination as schoolteacher. What she hasn't told Cal is that she's engaged to the sheriff on his trail, who wants not only him but the entire outlaw gang as well, rightly figuring that the horse knows its way back to the hidden Roost. Seems like a lot to occupy a mere 45 minutes (it's possible that 12 minutes could be missing but all you truly need is present), but it's a breezy and easy affair, despite the primitive outdoor techniques for fisticuffs. Dorothy Sebastian is hardly taxed by this standard 'girl in peril' who finds love in the strangest places, a career that deserved to be so much more than what she got. For today's audiences, the main interest is clearly seeing Boris Karloff in his sole talkie Western, often cast as villains during the silent era, later playing Native Americans in Cecil B. De Mille's "Unconquered" (set in the Ohio Valley of 1763) and Universal's "Tap Roots" (set in Mississippi during the Civil War). His voice sounds the same and he rides his horse with some confidence, plus it's one of his more sizable roles before "Frankenstein" with over five minutes on screen. This would have been a happy reunion between Dorothy and Boris, after recently costarring in Lionel Barrymore's creaky "The Unholy Night" aka "The Green Ghost," she the hysterical heroine, he sadly unbilled as her lovelorn solicitor.