Friday, August 05, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Flame of the West (1945) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

I've reviewed all of Johnny Mack Brown's films from Volume 1 in the Warner Archive Monogram Cowboy Collection, and I also previously reviewed his LAW OF THE PANHANDLE (1950) from the Monogram Cowboy Collection, Volume 3. I've been overdue to watch another one! I enjoyed FLAME OF THE WEST (1945) so well I certainly wished I'd gotten back to this Volume 3 set sooner.

FLAME OF THE WEST is a superior "B" Western with a good, meaty plot about the citizens of a wild and woolly Western town. Brown plays the newly arrived Dr. John Poole, who's dedicated to keeping people alive but is secretly a crack shot with a gun.

Dr. Poole's mild demeanor disappoints his otherwise admiring sometime assistant Abbie (Lynne Carver of the '38 A CHRISTMAS CAROL), who wishes the good doctor were more assertive.

Marshal Tom Nightlander (Douglass Dumbrille) arrives in town to establish law and order. He has a past relationship with singer Poppy Rand (Joan Woodbury). Poppy works for sleazy saloon owner Wilson (Harry Woods), and the Marshal longs to see Poppy begin a new life. A recently orphaned baby gives him a bright idea...

This Western with multiple interesting characters and strong performances came as quite a nice surprise. Adele Buffington's screenplay, based on a story by Bennett Foster, gives several characters moments to shine. The movie was directed by Lambert Hillyer, who headed up a number of Buck Jones films, including the charming THE MAN TRAILER (1934).

Brown is excellent as the quiet, dedicated doctor, and it was certainly interesting to see Dumbrille in an atypical role as a Wyatt Earp type. I think of Dumbrille playing roles like aristocrats, governors, or slimy villains -- or as the aging actor of AIR PATROL (1962) -- so it was fascinating to see him so convincing in this part as the authoritative marshal.

Joan Woodbury, seen here in a publicity photo, impressed me as Poppy. In CRASHING HOLLYWOOD (1938), seen just last week, she was a sweet, innocent ingenue -- the antithesis of her part here as the sarcastic yet mournful Poppy. It's a terrific role, and Woodbury carries it off extremely well, including a great plot revelation late in the movie. Woodbury also apparently did her own singing, backed by Pee Wing King and His Golden West Cowboys.

The movie is topped off with the villain being played by Harry Woods, one of the kings of "B" Western bad guys. The supporting cast also includes Raymond Hatton, Tom Quinn, and John Merton.

The movie was shot in black and white by Harry Neumann. It runs 71 minutes.

The DVD print is beautiful. It delights me that audiences can enjoy a relatively minor film like this in such pristine condition, decades after its release.

There are no extras.

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.


Blogger Jerry E said...

I may have to get this DVD set just for this one film, Laura! Never seen it but I understand "FLAME OF THE WEST" was something of a 'special' in Johnny Mack's series, running at 71 mins and with him not playing his usual Nevada Jack Mackenzie character.
Your enthusiastic review leaves me with no further convincing needed!!

10:58 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

The set is a good deal for a Western fan, Jerry -- I thought this film was really good, and LAW OF THE PANHANDLE was more ordinary yet pleasant. Plus seven more films in the set!

I'd love to know what you think when you get to see it.

Best wishes,

11:08 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

In 1946 Johnny Mack Brown and Lynne Carver reunited with Raymond Hatton and Adele Buffington, but under Derwin Abrahams direction to film Drifting Along. Despite a dubbed musical moment, this film has a true soul, thanks in part to Brown and Carver, both graduates of the MGM near stardom school. Lynne has the final line in the picture, and it is in its way surprising and genuinely heartfelt for a B western. There is also a moment when Johnny combs his hair after a fight that can be lost on the home screen, but was certainly not when shown thirty-five times larger than life, which is how I saw it on a double bill with The Virginian in 1946.

As for The Virginian, released the same year as Canyon Passage, and of special interest for totally different social and moral perspective.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

DRIFING ALONG sure sounds great, Barrylane. I will definitely be on the lookout to find it, given how much I enjoyed FLAME OF THE WEST. I appreciate the recommendation!

Best wishes,

11:11 AM  

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