Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tonight's Movies: Prairie Law (1940) and Stage to Chino (1940) - Warner Archive DVD Reviews

It's been a busy few days, which made it the perfect time to relax with more films from the Warner Archive George O'Brien Western Collection.

This time around I watched two more of O'Brien's films with Virginia Vale, PRAIRIE LAW (1940) and STAGE TO CHINO (1940). I'd seen this pair in the past, and like most of O'Brien's Westerns, they hold up very well on further acquaintance.

PRAIRIE LAW is an engaging, well-scripted tale in which O'Brien plays Brill Austin, who helps a bunch of homesteaders who have been tricked into buying land without access to water. One of the settlers is lovely Priscilla (Vale), and the pair are soon bantering and flirting in between dealing with water rights, cattle rustlers, and a fraudulent election to move the county seat.

I previously reviewed this one in 2014, and this time around I liked it just as much, if not more, than I did then. O'Brien and Vale are always fun to watch, and there's some genuinely amusing dialogue. One of my favorite bits involves a jury simultaneously conducting deliberations and participating in a shootout!

An added plus is that, as was often the case in these films, George O'Brien handled his own stunts in an extended fight sequence, including a backwards somersault and flipping someone over his shoulder.

The excellent cast includes Slim Whitaker, J. Farrell MacDonald, Dick Hogan, Cy Kendall, Paul Everton, Lloyd Ingraham Henry Hall, Monte Montague, and Hank Worden. Look for a young Darryl Hickman as a homesteader's son.

PRAIRIE LAW was directed by David Howard. It was filmed in black and white by J. Roy Hunt and the uncredited Harry J. Wild. The running time is 59 minutes.

While in PRAIRIE LAW Vale's character mostly roots from the sidelines, she has a strong role in STAGE TO CHINO as Caroline McKay, the spunky owner of a stage line. Caroline is trying to secure a mail contract, but she's being plotted against by her own uncle (Carl Stockdale) and by Dude Elliott (Roy Barcroft), who owns much of the town.

O'Brien plays Dan Clark, an undercover postal inspector, who's aided by a traveling salesman (Hobart Cavanaugh).

As I mentioned in my 2015 review, STAGE TO CHINO was Vale's favorite of her half-dozen films with O'Brien, and it's easy to see why. She had a good role, even driving a stagecoach, and in addition to that, she designed her own wardrobe! Tired of off the rack dresses from the studio wardrobe department, she made sketches and chose the fabric for dresses the wardrobe department made up for her; the dresses then went into the studio's inventory and were reused. Vale said, "I've seen them time and time again in Westerns."

O'Brien has some especially great stuntwork in this one, swinging from a chandelier and also transferring from one moving stagecoach to another, which Vale -- who was also in the shot -- later confirmed O'Brien did himself.

The STAGE TO CHINO cast includes Glenn Strange, William Haade, Harry Cording, Martin Garralaga, and Ethan Laidlaw, plus music from Nora Lou Martin and the Pals of the Golden West.

STAGE TO CHINO was directed by Edward Killy and filmed by J. Roy Hunt. It runs 59 minutes.

PRAIRIE LAW and STAGE TO CHINO are good-looking prints. There are no extras.

With this latest pair of films I've now seen seven of the nine films which comprise the George O'Brien Western Collection. Links to previous reviews of films in this set: LAWLESS VALLEY (1938), RACKETEERS OF THE RANGE (1939), TIMBER STAMPEDE (1939), TROUBLE IN SUNDOWN (1939), and BULLET CODE (1940).

The George O'Brien Western Collection is one of my all-time favorite Warner Archive releases. Fingers crossed that a final set of O'Brien's RKO Westerns will be released in the future, including the two remaining films he made with Laraine (Johnson) Day, BORDER G-MAN (1938) and PAINTED DESERT (1938), plus GUN LAW (1938) with Rita Oehmen, who was the mother of Charmian Carr of THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)

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.


Blogger Jerry E said...

You're making good headway with this terrific set, Laura! Two of O'Brien's very best westerns here. He was one of the very few stars allowed by his studio to get away with doing his own (pretty dangerous) stunts; the obvious other star being Jock Mahoney, but then he was better and safer at the stunts than most of the other hired stuntmen!!
I think you still have the final film in the series left to watch from this set - the one where he finally gets the gal!! - "TRIPLE JUSTICE".

7:29 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older