I didn't get the chance to watch many Christmas movies this year, but it's not Epiphany yet and so I'm still trying to squeeze in a title or two! Tonight I watched Roy Rogers in TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD thanks to the kindness of Toby at 50 Westerns From the 50s.
TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD is a charmingly goofy 67-minute Western. The title doesn't really make any sense, nor does it reflect the film's Christmas storyline.
Movie star Jack Holt has retired and started a Christmas tree farm, planning to sell the trees at cost so any family that wants a tree can afford a tree. The bad guys don't like Jack undercutting their prices, so there's Christmas tree rustling and all kinds of action-packed goings-on. You can read more about it over at 50 Westerns From the 50s.
As reviewers at IMDb point out, the film exists in a kind of alternate universe where it's 1950 and people drive cars, yet the characters are even more likely to ride horses or drive wagons to get where they're going. All the cowboys wear guns, and the town in the film looks like something right out of the 1800s.
There's not a minute to spare in the movie, which includes some pleasing musical numbers with Roy backed by the Riders of the Purple Sage; my favorite tune was "Ev'ry Day is Christmas in the West," where Roy and company are also joined by leading lady Penny Edwards.
Even better, a passel of Western movie stars turn up to help Roy and Jack at the finale, include Rex Allen, Monte Hale, Crash Corrigan, and more. There's a really delicious scene demonstrating their fancy gunplay.
The film has lovely shots of the Big Bear Lake area in Southern California. The movie combines lots of fresh air location shooting from the San Bernardino Mountains with inserted process shots which were obviously shot on a soundstage. The movie was filmed in Trucolor; the color on the tape I watched was a bit faded but it gave the film a nice kind of pastel watercolor look.
The film was directed by longtime Roy Rogers director William Witney.
TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD is available on videotape at an affordable price. Toby warns to steer clear of the DVD print, which is significantly edited.
I'll definitely be enjoying this fun little movie as part of my Christmas movie rotation in the years to come.