Monday, September 12, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Prairie Thunder (1937) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

PRAIRIE THUNDER (1937) is part of the 12-film Warner Archive Dick Foran Western Collection.

I've previously reviewed seven of the films in the set, linked at the bottom of this review. I've generally liked the Foran films, while recognizing they're not on the same level as a George O'Brien or Buck Jones Western of the same era. The quality of the Foran films has been variable, with some of them quite good and others more childish in tone.

PRAIRIE THUNDER, unfortunately, was the weakest film in the set seen to date. The story is tedious nonsense about villainous traders who goad Indians into repeatedly attacking a telegraph line while trying to prevent a railroad from coming to the area. The bad guys ultimately take Rod Farrell (Foran), a "plainclothes" Cavalry officer, and his sweetheart Joan (Janet Shaw, billed as Ellen Clancy) prisoner.

This story never catches fire at all. There are silly bits of business about Rod's sidekick Wichita (Frank Orth, Mike in the Dr. Kildare movies) falling asleep under all conditions, and there are inordinate amounts of stock footage used. I wouldn't be at all surprised if a quarter of the film's 55-minute running time is stock footage!

The one saving grace is spunky 18-year-old actress Janet Shaw. Shaw was from Robert Taylor's hometown of Beatrice, Nebraska, and was honored there last month at an event which also paid tribute to local favorite son Taylor. Kellee Pratt wrote about Shaw and the tribute at her blog Outspoken and Freckled, which I linked to in last week's roundup.

The only other high points are Foran's singing, including his theme song "The Prairie is My Home" just before the fadeout.

One other note of interest: Famed stuntman Yakima Canutt plays the Indian chief.

PRAIRIE THUNDER was directed by B. Reeves Eason and filmed by Ted D. McCord.

Previous reviews of films from this set: MOONLIGHT ON THE PRAIRIE (1935), CALIFORNIA MAIL (1936), TRAILIN' WEST (1936), THE CHEROKEE STRIP (1937), GUNS OF THE PECOS (1937), BLAZING SIXES (1937), and LAND BEYOND THE LAW (1937).

The trailer is included on the disc. The print is pretty good, although there are some light scratches over the opening credits and some of the stock footage is iffy, as is often the case.

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.


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