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  • 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.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Pack Train" was one of Gene's last films before devoting full duty to his TV show and various other business interests. The picture employs all the usual suspects, members of Gene's regular crew including Smiley Burnette, Gail Davis, Tom London and Harry Lauter in a heel role. Autry fans will recognize the template, evil town boss McClain (Kenne Duncan), aided by his female partner Lola Riker (Sheila Ryan) front a legitimate general merchandise store, but begin charging higher prices to boost their profits. In the case of Gene and his band of Sunshine Valley settlers, a deal is made for five thousand dollars worth of food and medical supplies that the baddies don't intend to deliver, especially after a local gold strike skyrockets demand for goods. I often question Gene's trust in people when as he does here, simply hands over the five grand in the promise of future delivery. Can you imagine doing business like that today?

    The picture doesn't stray from formula much, with Gene and his pal handling the musical chores. Smiley performs a novelty song for openers, and Gene sings "God's Little Candles" beside the campfire. I liked the concept for that song that Gene explained to the youngsters, that of the stars in the sky being God's little candles lit by angels. I think I'll use that one with my grandkids.

    You know, I was curious enough about Tom London, having seen him in so many TV and movie Westerns, that I checked his credits on the IMDb. Holy cow! - he's listed with some six hundred twenty three titles, a fair amount of which include appearances in a number of series, but still, that's about the heftiest resume I've seen yet. Could he be the all time king?

    The one impressive thing I can point to with this picture is the explosion and rock slide that the bad guys implemented to disrupt the pack train about the middle of the story. The finale finds Gene taking out villain Mclain aboard a runaway locomotive to make the save for the settlers. It was the end of the trail for the bad guys from Trail's End, kind of appropriate as I think about it now.