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  • The Border Menace is more than bad: it is excruciatingly awful!

    Star, Bill Cody is as feeble as always - I have described him elsewhere as a nonentity in an over-sized hat - but, in this movie, everybody and everything else is much, much worse.

    The B western genre is not one that is judged by normal thespian standards. Much is forgiven and overlooked and decidedly average performances acclaimed with delight. But we have acting here the like of which I have rarely, if ever, seen. Miriam Rice (as Helen, Bill's love interest)simply must be the most ineffectual western heroine ever to grace the screen. She has two facial expressions: one is a vacant grin, the other a look of concerned thoughtfulness. The problem is that she seems to alternate between the two at random. Hence, she frowns at Bill's cheery advances - Cody appears to spend a lot of his screen time laughing at nothing in particular - and grins amiably when her father (played by James Donnelly) is threatened. Donnelly delivers his dialogue in a sort of laboured rumble: there is no intonation whatsoever, but there are significant pauses, presumably where he struggles to remember his lines. Likewise, Frank Clark, as the town banker and lead villain, fluffs his on at least a couple of occasions without anyone demanding a re-take!

    Special mention, here, must go to Jimmy Aubrey, as Polecat Pete. He is clearly supposed to be funny - Cody stands around laughing every time PP is on screen - but the "joke" is that he scampers around, rolling his eyes in the tradition of cinematic pirates, and screaming at the top of his voice, about he tough he is. There aren't even any gags. Truly awful.

    And the script: never have I heard so much bad dialogue delivered by so many to so little effect! At times, one wonders where the script ends and the ad-libs begin.

    In terms of action, let it be said that the fights are hilariously uncoordinated: men run round and round each other at high speed, waving their arms about and rarely connecting. There are the usual chases on horseback but everyone seems to be riding at a slow canter. There is, also, the most ludicrous prison escape ever seen in movies. A hardened convict - in for 20 years - is allowed to climb over a wall and down a rope. He then ambles into a bush where he remains perfectly visible. Two guards with rifles run, one each side of the bush and into the distance leaving the bad lad free to escape on foot.

    In one memorable scene, a villain ties up the heroine then lights the fuse on a keg of gunpowder. She grins inanely as she spots Bill in the distance: Bill rides up and sets about untying her before doing anything about the keg. When he does finally lob it away, we get stock footage of a distant explosion. Some throw, indeed! Bill Cody for the next Olympics!

    I read somewhere that The Border Menace is considered to be the worst B western ever made. Of course, I can't be sure- not having seen the entire output of Reb Russell and Bob Custer - but, it probably is!
  • After years of watching B westerns as a kid when television ran them endlessly to now when I can view them with a critical eye, there are distinctions to be made. If you were a B picture cowboy if you were lucky you got to Republic Pictures for which the B western was their bread and butter. Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and the most famous cowboy of all John Wayne worked for Republic. If you were lucky you also worked in the B picture unit of a class studio like Paramount where Bill Boyd did the Hopalong Cassidy series.

    But the worst of them were these fly by night independent studios like Arwon Pictures which produced The Border Menace which starred Bill Cody a great western name and no relation at all to Buffalo Bill.

    The premise of The Border Menace is that Cody is an undercover Texas Ranger who infiltrates gangs and then rats them out. I'm sure that back in the old west as today, when one goes undercover the idea is to BLEND in. Cody with his cowboy hero Tom Mix like get up just doesn't convince.

    He infiltrates a gang trying to get some oil lands in Texas and the idea is to find out the real brains behind the outfit. It's not the strong arm guy George Cheesebro. It's rather obvious who it is, but Cody nearly gets done in when a guy he doublecrossed into prison gets out and joins the gang. The same gimmick nearly did in Edmond O'Brien as the undercover guy in White Heat. But that's a film light years better.

    The best part of the film is the rip snorting comic relief provided by Jimmy Aubrey with the great western name of Polecat Pete. From the distance folks kept from him, I assume that was a comment on his personal hygiene.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but essentially Cody is a professional rat in The Border Menace. He only looks the part of the cowboy hero here.
  • After watching, I do not know where to begin on this film. These are suppose to be professional actors but from the way the people said their lines, it appeared to be more of an average middle school production of a play. Plus it did not stop there. The editing of the movie was all but poor. Close up shots were added with no adjustment for movement or placement of surrounding props. Even the sound, which in 1934 was getting more advance, was poor to the fact that at times it was hard to hear the actors and then it was if they were shouting. Dialog was embarrassing. And never so much as at the end of the climax when someone tells the hero "Thanks for saving my fortune" only to hear in short reply only the words "OK" and then silence.

    The plot of this insignificant story was that a Texas Ranger, Bill 'The Shadow' Williams, was infiltrating a gang of thieves that was stealing cattle and taking land. Bill, played by Bill Code, manages to get inside the organization where he learns who is the brains of the business and then to place the criminals in prison. The story may sound like there was some interest but you would be incorrect.

    Other notables things about the picture is they tried to have a comic sidekick named Polecat Pete. But Pete sounded more like a drunk vaudevillian actor trying to shout to the rear of a packed theater instead of someone the audience would enjoy. Plus a fight scene that is so surreal that even the most novice viewer will find the outcome difficult to comprehend.

    This was filmed by a small and soon to be out-of-business production company. It was obvious that there were no re-takes or money for sets. It was fast pace and looked as though it was filmed out of sequence. Even using my "B" class Western scale of rating films - this is poor, very poor. And this reminds me of the last lines of the film where Bill Cody is embracing the female cast member. He says, "I did it." She replies, "You should did, Bill." as the film fades. --- I suddenly feel bad for Bill Cody.