24 February 2020 | glennstenb
"The Man From Hell" (1934) isn't All Bad
"The Man From Hell" (1934) starring Reb Russell is a good enough film to be worth viewing if one is a B-western fan, if only to appreciate how much more our more well-known western heroes can actually put across a reasonably good performance. For most other viewers this film may seem amateurish at times in its acting, even though the cast is populated by many solid actors. Maybe it is because Russell brings everyone down a notch or two with his lifeless delivery (it occurred to me that both Yakima Canutt, who has a small role in this film, and Russell may have gone to the same elocution school?). Reb Russell just doesn't look like a purpose-driven, high-confidence western hero, carrying a largely blank facial expression most of the time and a voice that can get lost in the wind.
However, the film itself has a good story line and plenty of action, including a prolonged street fight between Russell and Mayor Fred Kohler Sr. This fight results in both men showing battle scars and being physically spent from their efforts, which is not often depicted in these films. And the final shoot-out is really something, too. The outdoor scenes are well-appointed in topography and vegetation, and the camera work captures the action in exciting and sweeping style. I especially appreciated the town's siting, nestled at the base of some hills, and its' layout, with T-intersections, vacant lots, and wildflowers between the wooden buildings. Best of all were the plank sidewalks. I would like to live in a town like that... at least for a few days.
Fred Kohler had some good moments in his portrayal as the mayor, but our beloved George E. Hayes was pretty much lost in the proceedings... he had little to do as the girl's father, despite his high billing in the credits; but he did look surprisingly dapper and clean.
One final point is to validate Russell's reference to Yuma Penitentiary as a "hell hole." For those viewers that may not be aware, Yuma Territorial Prison's nickname was indeed the "hell hole" in the days when it was in operation and even today. If one has a chance to visit the rebuilt and maintained ruins of the attraction on and overlooking the Colorado River in Yuma, AZ, one should indeed do so.