21 December 2010 | HarlowMGM
Red Stallion Rides into the Sunset
RED STALLION IN THE ROCKIES was the second and final attempt by Eagle-Lion Studios to make an animal "star" out of the horse Red Stallion rather like Lassie was for dogs. This thin little family picture gets off to a bad start but becomes fairly interesting as it progresses. Small circus owners Arthur Franz and Wallace Ford are in Colorado after their circus goes belly up. They plan to become ranch hands and earn enough to get back to New York and resume their careers. They take positions at Honeymoon Ranch run by Ray Collins and his wife Leatrice Joy who are raising their eighteenish granddaughter Jean Heather. They also have on board Collins' villainous nephew Jim Davis as the ranch foreman. Collins and Davis clash frequently due to Davis' lack of work (or any) ethics although Collins is indeed a control freak, keeping his granddaughter in clothes more appropriate for a century ago and being the unquestioned boss of his wife Joy. One of Heather's few consolations is the pet elk she has raised, unaware Davis has been hitting the elk at night with rocks wrapped in Collins' jacket so the "dumb animal" will pick up the scent and one day attack him.
Meanwhile a pack of wild horses are creating havoc in the area, breaking down fences and destroying property and causing the local community's tame horses to join them in the process. The "leader" of the wild bunch is known by locals as "Ghost Horse", a Red Stallion (our hero) with a bizarre grey mane. Circus owner Ford recognizes the horse as the prize trick horse of his circus who ran away the previous year when they were in the area and vows to get him back but the local sheriff has put a $1,000 reward on the capture of the mare dead or alive which brings out the worst impulses in Davis and several of his buddies.
Red Stallion almost has a cameo role in this production, briefly seen 20 minutes into the film and not appearing again until the second half. He only has a few major scenes such as battling the now mad elk. Veteran Wallace Ford, a familiar face in 1930's films, comes off best as the dice-loving circus manager but it's also a pleasure to see silent star Leatrice Joy in a very rare talkie role, startlingly cast as a prairie "Aunt Bea" type given her notoriety as one of the most famous clotheshorses of 1920's Hollywood. Ingenue Jean Heather (almost thirty at the time!) comes off poorly in the opening scenes, speaking in that cutesy talk that Hollywood movies saddled young women playing teen-aged girls with in the 1940's but her performance gets better as the movie progresses (this was the last film of her career after several years as a minor Paramount starlet). Top billed Arthur Franz barely registers at all as the nominal hero of the film while there's a very good bad guy turn from Jim Davis of later DALLAS fame. Davis is a hunk in this film and yet quite a nasty character, a bully, a thief, and being indifferent if he will perhaps cause a death or two along the way. He even suddenly seems to take a sexual interest in second cousin Heather (in one of those absurd movie plot turns where a pretty dress suddenly makes guys wake up to the beauty and appeal of a heretofore unnoticed girl) at the local barn dance!
Attractively shot in Cinecolor, this minor little picture has it charms as well as it's quirks (one of the worst is an unintentionally comic "fistfight" in which the elderly and overweight Collins manages to best the husky young Davis). This is an acceptable if minor little family picture typical of such films from it's era.