29 September 2011 | MartinHafer
An original story and an excellent supporting cast make this one of Autry's better films.
I have watched a ton of B-westerns lately--mostly those films by old reliable series stars like Roy Rogers, Tim McCoy, Hoot Gibson and Gene Autry. While they are fun and entertaining, a major problem about them is that all too often the plots are either VERY recycled and familiar or they just don't seem that important. Too often singing and formula seem THE most important thing about the films. However, sometimes these stars make a film that stands out because it's original--and "Rim of the Canyon" is such a movie.
The first thing you need to know is that NOTHING about the title has anything to do with the film! Don't worry--it's still good. The film begins with Gene in a wagon race with a very young Alan Hale, Jr.--and Hale sabotages Gene's wagon to win! As a result of his wagon falling apart, Gene is left stranded--and the nearest town is a ghost town. However, when he arrives he finds the local school teacher. It seems she loves the old place AND likes to come and talk with a ghost!! Gene naturally suspects it's not a ghost--and perhaps the lady is wacky! At around the same time, three evil criminals escape from prison. Not only did Gene's father capture them (which you see in a flashback) but while Gene is racing, they steel his beloved horse, Champion! Eventually, this Einstein-like horse escapes and the three desperadoes end up in this ghost town. Considering they have a deep hatred of Gene's dad, they decide to do the next best thing and kill Gene...and his friends. I say friends because in addition to the teacher (Nan Leslie), there is a goofy old man named 'Loco John' (Clem Bevans) and the 'ghost' (Thurston Hall)! All four face certain death unless SOMETHING happens to stop these baddies.
As you can see, the plot sure is different. But there were several things I liked about this in addition. Hall was simply great. You can't help but be charmed by his sweet character--and Bevans is his usual cantankerous character as well---and they both added a lot to the film. Leslie was also quite nice--playing a different sort of romantic lead--one who was odd but very likable and sexy. As for Gene, he was quite good because he was not so invulnerable as some cowboys--he takes a few licks but comes back swinging--and did a reasonable amount of his own stunts. My only complaint, and it's a minor one, is the cliché of having Gene play his father in a flashback scene. Identical family members almost never occurs in real life--but is a common staple in B-movies! Still, if that's my biggest complaint, then I have no serious qualms about recommending this genuinely fun film. If you like the genre, see this movie!
By the way, if you do see this film, pay attention to what Champion does at the end of the movie. I have NEVER seen a horse do this sort of thing and it sure made for a dark but unique ending. See what I mean for yourself.