26 February 2006 | krorie
Two for the price of one
This is one of the best of the Allan Rocky Lane oaters, coming near the end of the B western trail. Several factors make this shoot-'em-up stand out from the average Saturday matinée cowboy fare. First, the fans get two cowboy heroes rather than just the star. Besides Rocky there's one of the finest actors in B westerns who starred in several of his own series, Bob Steele. He virtually hung up his guns after appearing as Sam Webb (except for supporting roles and his success in TV's popular "F Troop"). Sam is a parolee who has paid for his dirty deeds. Now determined to go straight and help take care of his hot headed brother and devoted sister, he becomes set upon by both the law, represented by Federal Marshall Rocky, and by his former outlaw buddies led by the notorious William Oakes (Roy Barcroft), a wolf in sheep's clothing so to speak. Caught in the middle, Sam becomes somewhat of a pawn to lure the bandits from their hiding place to get enough evidence to put them behind bars.
The killer bad guy, The Cherokee Kid, ostensibly working for Oakes but more of a loose cannon is played with élan by Richard Avonde, who gives one of the best performances ever for a B Western. Why this talented actor was not promoted more in films is difficult to ascertain. Bob Steele, Tim Holt, and other fine B performers broadened their horizons with meaty roles in A features, i.e. Bob Steele in "The Big Sleep," and Tim Holt in "The Magnificent Ambersons" and "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." Avonde ended his career doing television work. He remained an untapped raw talent unrecognized by Hollywood.
Another attraction of "Savage Frontier" for fans of the genre is the swift, fast action with lots of hard riding, straight shooting, and well staged fisticuffs. There are also excellent chases and shoot outs. One of Republic's best stunt men Tom Steele (no relation to Bob, whose real name was Robert Adrian Bradbury) not only does most of the stunts but even has a bit part in the film as one of the henchmen. He was in a league with the famed Yakima Canutt and Jock Mahoney in his abilities to take a fall, do tricks for the camera, and ride hard.
Director Harry Keller was one of Republic's best western directors. He believed in more action than talk. Many of the camera shots and angles are amazing for a B film.
The story is fairly routine, kept simple and straight forward for the kids. Rocky comes to town (not undercover this time) to catch the murderers of his partner. He suspects from the beginning who the killers are but he has to get evidence before he can make arrests. Nugget Clark is the town Marshall who teams up with Rocky. Nugget, like Gabby Hayes, is a teller of tall tales. He's also the barber and dentist for the small town and likes to impress a youngster with his brags. Together they go after Cherokee and Oakes who are trying to put the blame on Sam Webb. Sam is unable to willingly assist Rocky. The outlaws are blackmailing Sam as a result of his kid brother once helping the gang by holding their horses during a robbery involving a murder. The rest of the film involves the unfolding of the plot. There's no romance in this oater to clutter up the action, even though Elizabeth Webb (Dorothy Patrick) is a looker.