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.