17 February 2006 | stevehaynie
Get me a new shirt!
I watched Wild West Days over a period of about two weeks. Every chapter was filled with plenty of action and plot twists. Too often a serial can be described as "they fight over here, then they fight over there, and then they fight over here again." In Wild West Days there are several times where the action takes place in the same locations, but the plot is well served by the repetition. There were no boring chapters in this story driven serial. Something that makes the plot different from other westerns is that a man finds a platinum mine rather than a gold mine. The bad guys' search for the location of the platinum and Kentucky Wade's determination to stop them are the reasons for this adventure.
Instead of a trio we get four cowboys plus a strong willed rancher fighting the bad guys. Johnny Mack Brown looked every bit the part of a 30's western hero in his role as Kentucky. He was taller than most of the people around him, and he was always the best dressed. Brown's deep voice made him a natural leading man. Frank Yaconelli was perfect as the comical yet serious Mexican comrade, Mike. George Shelley, as Dude, got to court the girl and do all the singing. Although Yaconelli's guitar playing was for show rather than accompaniment during Shelley's songs, it was nice to see that he really was a musician as opposed to an actor faking playing a guitar. Bob Kortman was the sharp and wise gunslinger, Trigger. I was used to seeing him as a bad guy, so this was a fun turnaround. Frank McGlynn, Jr. is Larry Munro, but he really does not do much until halfway through the chapters.
To balance the good guys, there are a lot of bad guys: The Secret Seven who are able to use the nearby Indian tribe to do their dirty work, or just round up men whenever needed to go out to commit their crimes. The worst of the bunch are Keeler (Russell Simpson), Buckskin (Charles Stevens), and Steve Claggett (Al Bridge, whose name was at the bottom of the credits). Chief Thunderbird was a real Indian, and as Chief Red Hatchet he really added authenticity to the Indians in the movie.
Every character was well defined, and their personalities were well developed by the end. It made me wish for more adventures. Not only were the characters well portrayed, the costuming was unique for every cowboy. The businessmen wore suits that may have been slightly different, but each cowboy could be identified immediately by his clothes. Dude, Trigger, Larry, and Claggett could be identified by their vests alone. Mike had his vaquero outfit. Buckskin had his buckskin outfit. Kentucky Wade had the most incredible clothing and was very conscientious about it, too. More than once he mentions having to change clothes or asking someone to get him a new shirt. In fact, Kentucky knew that a hat and shirt must go together in order to look like the western hero that he was. For a couple of chapters Kentucky wears a white shirt and white hat instead of the black shirt and hat worn through the rest of the serial. The reason, of course, was so an old shot of a cowboy and horse leaping off of a cliff into some water could be used. It was cheaper to have an actor change clothes than to recreate the stunt.