Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Wagons West (1952) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

WAGONS WEST (1952) is an enjoyable Western starring Rod Cameron and Peggie Castle. It's available as part of the Monogram Cowboy Collection, Vol. 2, from the Warner Archive.

Cameron plays Jeff Curtis, a kindly wagon train guide hired by Cyrus Cook (Frank Ferguson). Cook and his nephews Clay (Henry Brandon) and Gaylord (Riley Hill) are unfortunately nasty types, the kind who would order a boy to shoot his dog rather than bring it on the journey west, and they're also the types who would smuggle guns to sell to the Cheyenne.

What's more, Clay has it in for Jeff when Jeff takes a shine to Ann (Castle), and Clay is even more enraged when Ann gets past her initial skepticism of Jeff and returns his affection.

WAGONS WEST has a strictly paint-by-the-numbers plot and at 70 minutes could have stood to have a few more scenes explaining characters and building relationships, but I had quite a nice time watching it. Simply put, it stars actors I like in the kind of story I enjoy.

This pleasant, undemanding but entertaining film was a great way to wrap up a relaxing day's movie watching. (With temperatures here hovering over 100 degrees, taking it easy with some movies made for a perfect Sunday.) I expect my fellow Western fans will probably like it as well.

It's no secret here I'm a fan of both Cameron and Castle, and I really enjoyed them paired in the leads. Noah Beery Jr. heads the supporting cast as a man with a mysterious past and a very pregnant wife (Anne Kimbell). The personable Beery always adds a little something extra to the Westerns in which he appears, and this film is no exception.

Michael Chapin plays Peggie Castle's younger brother; Michael was the brother of child actors Lauren (FATHER KNOWS BEST) and Billy Chapin. Sara Haden of the ANDY HARDY series plays Frank Ferguson's wife. Other familiar faces include Glenn Strange and I. Stanford Jolley.

The movie was shot in the inexpensive Cinecolor process, and the colors in the early scenes are quite variable. It seems to settle down as the movie goes on, or perhaps I just got used to the film's look after a while! The cinematographer was Harry Neumann. The movie was almost entirely shot outdoors on Southern California locations.

The film was directed by Ford Beebe from a screenplay by Daniel Ullman. Ullman is a recurring name in my viewing in recent months, providing a number of enjoyable films including the Warner Archive's WICHITA (1955) and CANYON RIVER (1956).

WAGONS WEST is one of two Cinecolor Cameron Westerns included in Vol. 2 of the Archive's Monogram Cowboy Collection. It's a fine print, given the inherent limitations of Cinecolor. There are no extras.

The other six films in the set star Whip Wilson, an actor whose work I don't yet know. Look for more reviews of films in this set in the future.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.

11 Comments:

Blogger Jerry E said...

Hi Laura
Nice review of an unpretentious little western of the type I usually really enjoy. Lots of exterior location shooting in colour, a good supporting cast and two of my absolute favourite stars. I always enjoy anything with Peggie Castle and Rod Cameron, so to see them together...Great!

From about 1948 for the next decade, Cameron virtually alternated in films from either Republic or Allied Artists. These are my type of film and some, like "STAMPEDE", "BRIMSTONE", "SHORT GRASS" and "RIDE THE MAN DOWN" are among my favourite westerns of all.
Best wishes,
Jerry

10:48 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm glad you've enjoyed this one too, Jerry! "Unpretentious" is a good adjective for it. It gains a lot by being shot outdoors. It was what I think of as "good company."

Really enjoyed SHORT GRASS and STAMPEDE, looking forward to checking out BRIMSTONE and RIDE THE MAN DOWN soon!

Best wishes,
Laura

6:07 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

"(With temperatures here hovering over 100 degrees, taking it easy with some movies made for a perfect Sunday.)"

I've been putting away summer clothes, bringing out winter clothes and blankets for the beds for these colder nights.

The variety of weather in this country from place to place is as astounding as science fiction. No wonder we're obsessed with it.

4:27 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's so crazy, Jacqueline! We've got another day of 100-ish temps, then a bunch of days in the 80s and 90s lined up after that. I'm ready for winter clothes, please send cooler weather if you can! :)

Best wishes,
Laura

5:32 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I can FedEx you a tray of ice cubes. That's about it. I get my standing order of cooler weather from Paddy in Ontario. I don't know if she delivers in this sales territory, but I'll put in a good word for you.

4:07 AM  
Blogger Lee R. said...

Enjoyed both your Cameron movie reviews from Vol. 2. I bought this release a while back and watched all EXCEPT for the 2 Cameron movies. I've been watching and enjoying his 2 TV series' "Coronado 9" & "State Trooper" first. Well, now completed I plan on catching up with all the Cameron westerns I've held off on.

I can tell you I had never seen any Whip Wilson westerns before I got these discs and I thought Whip was great. I wish I had more Whip to watch. He's very good and a pleasant surprise over some others I had high hopes for like Eddie Dean & Sunset Carson. I think you'll have a lot of fun with the Whip too.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jacqueline, thanks for the smiles! :)

Lee, thanks for sharing your thoughts -- we're watching Cameron in reverse order from one another, as I recently ordered CORONADO 9 and STATE TROOPER and look forward to seeing them in the future. I hope you'll enjoy the Cameron films in this set!

I'm curious to check out Whip Wilson, I'd never even heard of him until the Warner Archive put out this set!

Best wishes,
Laura

12:40 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Hi Laura
Thought you might find something useful in a little background to Whip Wilson, in advance of you watching or reviewing any of his films.

Monogram Pictures had a fair success 1941-42 with a western series called "The Rough Riders". This was something of a comeback for top star Buck Jones who had been No.1 western star at the Box Office 1934. They starred him with another of the big names, Tim McCoy. There were 9 films made (one without McCoy) until Jones perished in the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in L.A. in 1942.
Producer of the pictures, Scott Dunlap, wanted to have a similar success some years later with a new western star who resembled Jones. Whip Wilson was born and starred in 22 westerns 1949-51.

Now Wilson never came close to rivalling Buck Jones and his time was relatively short. He has his fans though, even to this day, and I shall be really interested in your take on him.
Hope the background provides some colour to the overall picture!

Best,
Jerry

9:29 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jerry, thanks so much for taking the time to leave all that info on Whip Wilson, I love having that background before I watch my first Wilson film. :)

I've also enjoyed your list of Thrillers over at Rupert Pupkins Speaks and will stop by on Saturday to leave a comment!

Thanks again!
Best wishes,
Laura

12:21 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Thanks, Laura. I look forward to your comments on RUPERT PUPKIN.

I made a boo-boo though in my piece on Whip Wilson, which I should correct - the Cocoanut Grove club was in Boston, not L.A. of course!!

10:17 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Jerry! :)

Best wishes,
Laura

10:26 AM  

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