2 January 2005 | django-1
the least-bad of Spade Cooley's three western features
The other two westerns that "starred" Spade Cooley--THE SILVER BANDIT and THE KID FROM GOWER GULCH--are usually thought of as some of the worst westerns of the post-World War II era (along with some of the Sunset Carson westerns made in 16mm), and they are. They are as incompetently done on every level as such 30's fodder as THE IRISH GRINGO or LIGHTING BILL (sic) or THE PHANTOM COWBOY. BORDER OUTLAWS, however, is nowhere near as bad. At its best, it's about as good as one of the lower quality entries from Monogram at the same time--say, whatever would be considered the worst Whip Wilson western. Bill Edwards, a too-stoic actor who sounds like he might have been a radio actor before getting into film(although looking up his credits, I see that that is not true--he was a rodeo champ!), is the leading man and hero in the film (by the way, is the Bill Edwards credited for the 1969 experimental film A MARRIED COUPLE the same person??). Spade, of course, plays himself, the jovial owner of a dude ranch. He's actually quite comfortable on screen this time and does not do a bad job. While I fast-forwarded through a few scenes (I initially saw this film back in the 80s) this time around, I think there is only one song, and it's a horrible operetta sounding thing sung (or at least mouthed) by the leading lady in the film, Maria Hart, who had leading roles in a few other z-grade westerns in this period, and whose last credit is Nicholas Ray's THE LUSTY MEN with Robert Mitchum. The film is directed by silent and early-sound action star and stunt whiz Richard Talmadge. He was second-unit director on many big Hollywood productions in the 50s and 60s, but his directing credits are mostly limited to small z-grade productions, including at least one shot in 16mm. I've always loved Talmadge's features (THE SPEED REPORTER being a personal favorite), so it's good to see him do an adequate job here (he also makes a brief appearance for about a second--don't blink!). The film also features his brothers, THE METZETTI BROTHERS acrobatic team, who play ranch hands who for no reason at all work in outrageous acrobatic stunts into every chore they do on the ranch. Those who like this kind of thing should check out some of the films directed by Gianfranco Parolini (aka Frank Kramer), who also puts in irrelevant acrobatic antics where they are not needed (remember RETURN OF SABATA, anyone?). I like this technique--it's like getting a circus act free for the price of the movie ticket! John Laurenz plays the same kind of Hispanic role here as he did in two James Warren westerns as "Chito Rafferty" (paging Chris-Pin Martin!)-- if Mr. Laurenz is himself Hispanic, I apologize, but he doesn't sound very convincing to me. Bud Osborne is his usual reliable self as the sheriff. Overall, this is an average z-grade western, but it's by far the least bad of Spade Cooley's three "starring" westerns. The film actually stars Bill Edwards (who starred in his own z-grade westerns, none of which I've seen), but Cooley's name and notoriety make this better known than any of Edwards' own films. There's not much music here and there's not much camp value, so I can't imagine the film having much appeal beyond fanatics who want to see all the obscure post World War II indie westerns that they can.