Time for a return to the Warner Archive's Dick Foran Western Collection! With TRAILIN' WEST (1936) I've now reviewed half of the titles in this 12-film collection.
TRAILIN' WEST is a middling entry in the set. Foran and leading lady Paula Stone are lively, but at times this one plays more like a kiddie matinee shoot-'em-up than anything else.
The Civil War is raging and Lt. Red Colton (Foran) receives an undercover assignment in the West from Abraham Lincoln (Robert Barrat) himself.
Red meets lovely Lucy Blake (Stone) on a stagecoach, and is startled to later realize she's a dance hall girl. There might be more to Lucy than Red initially suspects, however...
Meanwhile, Red's hotel room is invaded and his identity papers stolen, enabling Jefferson Duane (Gordon Elliott, aka Bill Elliott) to use them to pose as Red at a nearby army post.
TRAILIN' WEST is pleasant enough but leans towards the overly simple, cliched end of the Western genre. And what's with the quaint-looking speeded-up footage of Foran on horseback? That's happened in at least one of his other films.
At their best the Foran films are engaging, with good music mixed with some action and romance; at their weakest they play closer to an old school melodrama. In this one Foran even utters the immortal line "It's just a flesh wound!" (In his defense, it probably wasn't a cliche at the time this was made!)
The highlight of the film was Foran singing "Moonlight in the Valley," a lovely tune which made me glad I was watching the film despite its shortcomings.
Another of the movie's fun aspects was discovering a young Bill Elliott as the villain. I've now seen him in enough movies to easily recognize him, even with a mustache which makes him look a little like...Don Ameche?
I liked Paula Stone, who showed spunk and smarts as Lucy. Some fun trivia: According to IMDb, Paula Stone is the cousin of Milburn Stone of GUNSMOKE.
The cast includes Addison Richards, Milton Kibbee, Glenn Strange, Yakima Canutt, Cliff Lyons, Joseph Crehan, Bob Burns, and even Jim Thorpe. The movie was directed by Noel M. Smith and filmed by Sid Hickox and Ted McCord. The running time is 56 minutes.
The TRAILIN' WEST print is occasionally a little rougher than the typical Warner Archive print, with periodic scratches, and during a chase scene the screen actually goes to black for a couple of seconds. That said, it's entirely watchable, with good sound. The trailer is included.
Although this wasn't one of my favorites in the set, I've been enjoying my time with this collection and suspect my fellow "B" Western fans would like it as well.
Previous reviews of films from this set: MOONLIGHT ON THE PRAIRIE (1935), CALIFORNIA MAIL (1936), THE CHEROKEE STRIP (1937), GUNS OF THE PECOS (1937), and LAND BEYOND THE LAW (1937).
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 from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.