Over at 50 Westerns From the 50s, Toby's just started a new series I'm really pleased about, Tim Holt Tuesdays.
It's a great celebration for those of us who love Tim Holt Westerns, and I hope that those who aren't familiar with these movies might learn more about them and come to enjoy them too. I just saw my first Holt Western a little over a year ago, and they've been a wonderful addition to my classic film viewing.
In the comments for the inaugural Holt post, Toby and Paula recommended THE MYSTERIOUS DESPERADO (1949), so I pulled that out to watch tonight. It's part of the Warner Archive's Tim Holt Western Classics Collection, Vol. 2.
THE MYSTERIOUS DESPERADO is indeed a good example of the series' quality. Like so many of the films, it was briskly directed by Lesley Selander and filmed in beautiful black and white by Nicholas Musuraca. Norman Houston wrote the screenplay.
Chito (Richard Martin) receives a letter indicating he has an inheritance from his uncle waiting for him in California. When Chito and Tim arrive in town to collect, they're regularly shot at by folks who obviously want Chito dead. Meanwhile, Chito discovers his cousin Ramon (Edward Norris), the rightful heir, is hiding on the old Bustamante family rancho. Ramon has been accused of killing his father, Chito's uncle.
It's a quick 61 minutes in which Tim and Chito unravel who's trying to bump off Ramon and Chito, while also ensuring Ramon will have a happy future with his love Luisa (Movita Castenada). There's a lot of great action amidst the distinctive rock formations of the Alabama Hills, as well as a climactic shootout at the rancho, a set familiar from many other Westerns.
IMDb says that the mission in the film is Mission San Fernando Rey.
It's interesting to note that Tim Holt's character in this film is named...Tim Holt! He goes by Tim Holt in a few more of his RKO Westerns.
As in the other Holt Westerns, there are some nice bits of character and humor squeezed in with the fast-paced story. As is the case in the other films -- RIO GRANDE PATROL (1950) particularly comes to mind -- part of the movies' charm is Tim's perpetual amusement with Chito. I love the sidelong glances and grins Tim gives Chito when Chito's not looking.
Movita, who was born in 1917, appears to still be living, if IMDb is correct. (Update: Movita died February 12, 2015, at the age of 98.)
According to TCM, this film has also been shown under the titles IN OLD CAPISTRANO and RENEGADE OF THE RANCHO.
Previous reviews of Tim Holt Westerns: THE RENEGADE RANGER (1938), ROBBERS OF THE RANGE (1941), THUNDER MOUNTAIN (1947), GUNS OF HATE (1948), RIDERS OF THE RANGE (1950), STORM OVER WYOMING (1950), RIDER FROM TUCSON (1950), BORDER TREASURE (1950), and RIO GRANDE PATROL (1950).