24 February 2002 | rsoonsa
Much to admire in this well-made film.
In this nifty Western, action opens with exciting moments at a rodeo where Jim Traft (comedian Benny Baker) is an onlooker and it is revealed that Traft is to be willed a ranch in Arizona, although he is obviously better suited for city surroundings. At the rodeo Traft is able to make an acquaintance of a wrangler whose name is similar to his, Jim Travis (Tom Keene), who he persuades to swap places with him at the ranch since a codicil in Traft's uncle's will stipulates that his nephew must learn the cattle business. When Travis arrives at the Traft ranch, he quickly impresses the crew there that he is the genuine article, and leads his hands in the construction of a drift fence, to contain his cattle and to keep rustlers and other interlopers off his spread. Successful construction of the fence is endangered by a band of rustlers headed by Clay Jackson (Stanley Andrews) who utilizes the fast draw of local rancher Slinger Dunn (Buster Crabbe) as his primary weapon. Jackson is applying pressure upon Slinger's sister Molly (Katherine DeMille) to wed him, and the grandmother of the siblings (Effie Elssler), matriarchal doyen of the Dunn ranch, approves of Jackson, which complicates matters since Travis (a Texas Ranger in disguise) is familiar with the rustler kingpin's felonious past. Based upon the novel of the same name by Zane Grey, which appeared in serial form two years prior, DRIFT FENCE benefits from the direction of Otho Lovering, a sterling film editor who utilizes fades to perfection, and the viewer feels no need for filler, as the work snaps along to an exciting conclusion. Paramount supplies an enjoyable cast and, in addition to those mentioned, Irving Bacon, Leif Erickson and craggy-faced Walter Long give solid performances. In only 55 minutes of film, this production yields an interesting story and dialogue, augmented by good acting, with comedy, romance and gunplay in the mix.