Sunday, August 14, 2016

Tonight's Movie: The Maverick (1952) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

THE MAVERICK (1952) is the sixth film I've reviewed from the Warner Archive Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection. I found it enjoyable.

THE MAVERICK was a nice change from WACO (1952) and TOPEKA (1953), recently viewed Elliott films where I wasn't quite comfortable with him playing outlaws. Here Elliott plays Lt. Pete Devlin, an honorable "by the book" cavalry officer.

There's a wild range war going on, and when some murderous cattlemen are arrested by the military, Lt. Pete Devlin (Elliott) and a few other soldiers are ordered to deliver the men to trial at a fort some distance away.

Along the way the traveling party is joined by a lone covered wagon carrying Della Watson (Phyllis Coates) and her grandmother (Florence Lake) to the fort.

There's plenty of trouble on the journey, as the prisoners' friends (led by Robert J. Wilke) are following with plans to set them free. Meanwhile Sgt. Frick (Myron Healey) makes some boneheaded choices -- including making an unwanted advance on Della -- and he become resentful when Lt. Devlin busts his rank back down to trooper and promises a disciplinary hearing.

This is a good standard-issue 71-minute "B" Western, nothing particularly special but enough action and conflict to maintain the interest throughout. There are some nice story touches, such as Healey coming to a deliciously ironic end at the hands of Wilke. There was also some good action, with refreshingly realistic moments such as Elliott being momentarily stunned after he falls from his horse.

THE MAVERICK was clearly filmed at familiar Southern California locales, but it helps that almost the entire movie was filmed outdoors; other than the interiors at the fort, only a campfire scene appears to have been shot in a soundstage.

Phyllis Coates, who is now 89, was the spunky leading lady in many a "B" Western. Her character is fairly interesting in that she's torn between annoyance and respect for Lt. Devlin's upright persona. She does continue to bicker with him for an unrealistically long time; after Sgt. Frick shows his true colors, she should mellow out considerably more. She has a couple terrific moments during the climactic gunfight, shooting her rifle right alongside the soldiers, clearly winning Lt. Devlin's admiration.

I found a curious photo in which Elliott is kneeling in front of Coates; it's apparently a publicity photo, as no such scene appears in the final film.

Lake, the sister of actor Arthur Lake of the BLONDIE series, is given some good moments during the big battle sequence. The cast also includes Rand Brooks, Denver Pyle, Richard Reeves, Terry Frost, Russell Hicks, and Gregg Barton.

THE MAVERICK was directed by Thomas Carr and filmed in black and white by Ernest Miller.

The score by Raoul Kraushaar was good, with its somewhat repetitive nature underscoring the long drudgery of the trip, where the caravan doesn't dare stop because of the men on their trail; that said, the music was also very familiar, and I'm almost positive I've heard the same score in another of Elliott's Westerns.

Previous reviews of films from the Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection: WACO (1952), KANSAS TERRITORY (1952), REBEL CITY (1953), TOPEKA (1953), and THE FORTY-NINERS (1954). There are two more films in the set which I'll be reviewing at a future date. I've really enjoyed this set, with its Westerns providing good, low-key "movie comfort food."

The Warner Archive print was excellent. 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 from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger Jerry E said...

I feel sure you are correct about the familiarity of Raoul Kraushaar's score here, Laura - "THE HOMESTEADERS" perhaps?? His music was all over Monogram's westerns of the first half of the 1950s. A piece he used several times in both Whip Wilson and Johnny Mack Brown films ("OKLAHOMA JUSTICE" is one) later turned up as the closing credits theme music for the "TALES OF WELLS FARGO" TV series (with no credit to Kraushaar BTW)!

Personally, I rather like Wild Bill in his reformed badmen roles. They meant a lot to him as he was paying homage to his own screen hero, William S. Hart, noted for his 'good badman' roles, and always hoped to be able to play Hart in a biopic though it never happened.

2:34 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Jerry,

Thanks for that very interesting info about both Kraushaar and Elliott! I may well stick some Elliott discs back in and try to identify where I heard the MAVERICK theme as it's quite distinctive and shouldn't be too hard to track down. That is very interesting about one of his pieces for Monogram ending up used over some TV credits too!

That is great background on Elliott and Hart. I found WACO a little better because there was a reason for Elliott's character to have gone bad, but was surprised by his TOPEKA character starting out as a plain old outlaw -- although him becoming a "good badman" was quite interesting once I got past being startled by our hero being a bad guy LOL. I like the theme of bad men discovering the pleasure of honest living, which has been used in a couple other films I've seen.

Thanks again for all the background info!

Best wishes,

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laura, I've become an Elliott fan thanks to you! I'm working my way through his detective films and then will move on to his westerns.

12:15 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Vienna, I'm so happy to hear that!! Like you I found that the detective films were a great "gateway" to appreciating Elliott's film persona. Delighted you're enjoying them, and I'm sure you'll enjoy the Westerns as well.

Thanks for letting me know!!

Best wishes,

8:12 AM  

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