29 May 2012 | dougdoepke
More Imagination than Usual
The plot is formula, but more than the usual amount of imagination went into the storyline. As a former Front-Row kid, I've seen hundreds of these Saturday afternoon horse operas. But this is the first time I've seen a stagecoach turned into an armored car, courtesy of metal plates. So, the bad guys get a big surprise out of that western cliché, the stage hold- up, thanks to an imaginative screenplay.
Still, the bad guys could have triumphed had they broken a paramount taboo—they could have shot one of the stagecoach horses and ended the chase right there. But then thousands of us Front Row kids in 1942 would have stormed the screen and ripped it down. It's okay to shoot as many guys as needed, but shoot a horse and America's kids would come after you, no holds barred. Okay, I exaggerate, but not much. Nor was this taboo confined to kid westerns. Check out John Ford's epic A-western, Stagecoach (1939). There you'll see the same set-up—Indians chasing a stage, taking big casualties, but never once shooting a horse. Some things, it seems, are just too sacred to do, regardless of budget size.
I digress, but the taboo remains an interesting point, and on clear display in this 60-minutes. Anyway, the movie's a pleasant mix of action, song, and bad guy intrigue. Watch for hulking Glenn Strange, the bartender from the Gunsmoke TV series (1955-1975), as the chief henchman. I also like the actress Nell O'Day who has maybe the best name for a western belle that I've seen. Anyhow, this Johnny Mack Brown special remains an hour of old time fun for this now Front Row geezer.