15 November 2006 | aimless-46
The Savage Mr. Spock
"Old Overland Trail" (1953) is a spectacularly bad example of one of Republic's Bill Witney directed Rex Allen "trail"westerns. Witney made a series of "trail" westerns with Allen including "Iron Mountain Trail" and South Pacific Trail". His Roy Rogers westerns were called "old" westerns because that word was often in the title.
Rex (Rex Allen) is a Bureau of Indian Affairs investigator sent out to look into a sudden outbreak of Apache trouble. He traces the trouble to a railroad construction company. The company has subcontracted with the Indians to cause trouble in ways that will increase its profit on a government contract. Rex's brother Jim (Gil Herman) is part owner of the company and suspects that his partner is behind the Indian attacks.
Although very bad, 'Old Overland Trial" can be quite entertaining from a movie making and nostalgia perspective. Watch for Roy Barcroft, a bad guy here who would go on to play nice Mr. Logan, the owner of the Triple R Ranch on "Spin and Marty". Barcroft was also a semi- regular on "The Lone Ranger", playing the sheriff who regularly got to answer the question "who was that masked man?" at the end of each episode. Then there is a young Mr. Spock with long hair and regular ears (actually you can't tell) playing the bad Indian. And of course there is Slim Pickens who plays Allen's sidekick of the same name, arguably the best (and certainly the most talented) of all western sidekicks.
Other entertaining items are the abrupt scene changes, as harrowing sequences cut without transitions to Allen and the cast singing a pleasant western song. And you should watch for the extensive use of second unit and stock footage, all outdoor stuff shot wide so it is difficult to tell that none of the cast members are present. They were all back on the indoor sound stage shooting close-ups and medium shoots with outdoor paintings for background. The editor would then assemble this into a relatively logical sequence. Even a first time viewer eventually wonders why the film stock, lighting, and backgrounds keep changing within the same scene.
Finally there is yet another sequence of seemingly suicidal Indians riding around a circle of covered wagons.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.