Saturday, September 03, 2016

Tonight's Movie: The Gunman From Bodie (1941) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

THE GUNMAN FROM BODIE (1941) is a winner in the Rough Riders series starring Buck Jones, Tim McCoy, and Raymond Hatton. It's available from the Warner Archive in the Monogram Cowboy Collection, Volume 8.

THE GUNMAN FROM BODIE is the second film in the series, following ARIZONA BOUND (1941), which I reviewed a few days ago.

In an atmospheric, evocative opening, Bob "Bodie" Bronson (Jones) seeks shelter from a driving storm. He enters a dark home only to discover the horror of two bodies.

The dead woman is clutching a note which names one of the killers and says "Take care of my baby." Bodie finds the baby boy and the next day finds him a home at a ranch owned by Alice Borden (Christine McIntyre). Alice and her foreman, Joe (David O'Brien), seem likely to marry and provide the baby with an instant family.

Marshal Tim McCall (McCoy) arrives in town with a wanted poster for Bodie, who steers clear of the marshal and ingratiates himself with the town's less savory denizens. The movie's 62 minutes are just about over before anyone in town realizes that Bodie and Alice's cook Sandy (Raymond Hatton) are also marshals, working to capture the cattle rustlers who murdered the baby's parents.

THE GUNMAN FROM BODIE is well-plotted and interesting, with the opening being one of a couple quite memorable sequences. The film makes the most of Jones's ability to play conflicted characters, as the seemingly dark-tempered Bodie. At the end of the film it's as though the sunshine comes out when the big reveal is made and Bodie cracks a smile.

McCoy is curious in that he occasionally does a thing with his eyes which looks perilously close to cliched silent movie over-emoting, yet he's also confident and charismatic as the mild-mannered, fast-drawing marshal. He has a tremendous scene where he tortures a murderer (John Merton) by telling him about the horrible hanging of a killer who turned "yellow" at the end.

The movie is quite scenic at times. My best guess is that the mountain and meadow scenes were filmed somewhere like the Jack Garner Ranch in Idyllwild, although IMDb only lists Santa Clarita and Newhall. (And for those who might wonder, Bodie is never seen in the movie.) It was filmed in black and white by Harry Neumann.

Like ARIZONA BOUND, THE GUNMAN FROM BODIE was directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet from a screenplay by Adele Buffington, writing under the name Jess Bowers.

The cast includes Robert Frazer and Charles King.

It's an excellent print. 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...

Generally considered the best of the Rough Riders series, and I would agree. The early scene where Buck fashions a teat from his glove to feed the baby milk is a 'piece of business' that displays the humanity that Jones liked to feature in his films. I can't think of any other western star for whom such displays were a feature. It is similar to the very real tenderness Buck displayed towards his horse Silver in the recently reviewed "THE DEADLINE". I guess it is part of what made him the No. 1 western star at the box office in the mid 30s.
Nice, sympathetic review, Laura.

11:56 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much for the above, Jerry. Very interested that this is considered the best of the series, as I was quite taken with it. The bit with the glove was yet another memorable moment. (And what a great memory of Buck's reunion with his horse in THE DEADLINE!) I am just glad I still have so many Buck Jones films ahead of me to enjoy for the first time!

Best wishes,

2:08 PM  

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