16 May 2008 | JohnHowardReid
Harold Huber at His Worst, Gene at His Second Best!
The plot of Gene Autry's 49th (out of 94) film revolves around that old "The Producers" gag in which suckers are fleeced by con men who are purporting to make a money-making movie. The robbers flee to Mexico, so naturally Gene and Frog follow suit.
At least this development give Gene a chance to sing his hit number, "South of the Border", early on in the piece. And this outing certainly proves a must-see for fans of Harold Huber (at his hammiest worst) and vivacious Fay McKenzie (whom Autry said on his "Melody Ranch" TV program was here making her movie debut. Not strictly true, although all her many previous parts were no more than bits. Gene also made a big point of the fact that Billy Gilbert was her uncle).
In other respects, the movie is extremely well produced. In fact production values are exceptionally lavish by "B" standards, with lots of colorfully-dressed extras running around strikingly designed sets, followed by a really extended action climax, packed full of picturesque shots of riders against stand-out natural backgrounds.
We are also treated to some thrilling stunts, although some are marred by obvious process screen effects. Particularly disconcerting is a manifestly fake climactic shot in which Gene is supposed to jump off a cliff into the back seat of a speeding convertible!
Perhaps it's just as well there's no action at all for the first half-hour, although we are handed a fair amount of stylish local color, including a fast track of Gene and his lady love strolling through the local markets and an even larger slice of ho-hum comic tomfoolery with Smiley Burnett playing stooge to the egregious Senor Huber.