21 November 2009 | krorie
One of Gene's Last Movies Is Sadly At Best Routine
One of Gene's final Saturday matinée outings (his big screen tenure would end with "Last of the Pony Riders" later that year) before he devoted his time to his TV shows and other business activities to make him one of the wealthiest men in Hollywood. Sadly, "Pack Train" is at best a routine low budget oater. Even the action sequences, except for the last one which takes place aboard a speeding locomotive, are poorly edited and often the topography of the bad guys shooting at Gene is different from the topography of the Gene returning their fire. The story is meager, the humor lame, and even the music is sparse. The three songs are not bad being written by Gene and gifted songwriter Smiley Brunette. "God's Little Candle," by Gene and Smiley is pleasing and the harmony easy on the ears. Novelty tunes were Smiley's forte and "Hominy and Grits" as performed by Smiley is light-hearted and fun to hear. The other one, "Wagon Train," is lackluster but passable.
One plus for the film is seeing Gene, Smiley, and Gene's new leading lady from Arkansas, Gail Davis, together. Pat Buttram's wife, Sheila Ryan, makes a believable lady outlaw whose in collusion with veteran character actor, Kenne Duncan. Tom London who plays Gail Davis' father in the film is always a treat for western fans. In a change of roles, Harry Lauter plays a good bad guy who because Gene spares his life sells out his boss so Gene can nab him. And then there's always Champion, who often upstaged the human actors.
The plot centers around a group of settlers sponsored by Gene who are in dire need of supplies or face starvation and disease. The only supplies in town are controlled by the crooks who attempt to cheat the new arrivals. For a change the title of the movie actually describes the story as Smiley uses a pack train to get the supplies where needed.
I would recommend this shoot-em-up for Gene's multitude of fans who are interesting in seeing his last three westerns. His TV shows of 1953 are actually better made. Other viewers beware.