I mentioned in late August that the Warner Archive would be releasing a new collection of Monogram Westerns, and it's now here!
The Monogram Cowboy Collection, Volume 9, contains nine films on three discs. All star Johnny Mack Brown, with Raymond Hatton as his sidekick.
Tonight I watched the first and earliest movie in the set, THE GENTLEMAN FROM TEXAS (1946). It's an all-around solid 55-minute "B" Western.
Brown plays Johnny Macklin, sent to clean up the town of Rimrock, which is under the control of Steve Corbin (Tristram Coffin).
Johnny arrives in town and quickly demonstrates he's not a man to mess with, but Steve and his many hired henchmen keep trying. Johnny is aided in his efforts to clean up the town by newspaper editor Diane (Reno Blair), her father Idaho (Hatton), who becomes Johnny's deputy, and Wells Fargo agent Tom Jamison (Steve Clark).
Saloon girl Kitty (Claudia Drake) has a love-hate relationship with Steve, who's also interested in another saloon gal, Flo (Christine McIntyre). Jealous Kitty gets back at Steve by periodically informing Johnny of Steve's crooked plans.
The undercover marshal cleaning up the town so the stagecoaches can run and folks won't be cheated has been done a million times, but this is a nice, distinctive spin on the familiar plot with some good atmosphere. There are many characters, but they manage to have distinct personalities within the confines of a short movie, and they're corralled in a well-plotted story.
Steve is a particularly nasty villain, who pays off hired gunmen but isn't shy about killing people himself; in a memorable scene he executes two of his own employees who are trapped in a jail cell.
Of the three women in the film, Drake has the splashiest role, with the chance to sing two songs; her second number, a slow, dramatic piece, is rather lovely. According to IMDb, Drake did her own singing in movies. She's backed by Curt Barrett and the Trailsmen.
Brown has plenty of opportunity to display both his low-key, engaging personality and his athletic ability. He has a great scene where he pledges that the next man who draws on him will end up in Boot Hill, after which he almost casually shoots someone he's noticed is about to fire at him. Brown's ability to convey confidence without being cocky is both appealing and reassuring.
All but one of the films in this set are directed by Lambert Hillyer, who did excellent work on a number of Buck Jones Westerns, as well as Brown's top-drawer FLAME OF THE WEST (1945). The movie was shot by Harry Neumann.
I've reviewed numerous films from Volumes 1 through 3 in the Monogram Cowboy series, as well as Volume 8, and will be reviewing more Monogram Westerns in the future, including additional titles from this set. For a sampling of more Monogram Cowboy Collection reviews, just input "Monogram Cowboy" in the search box at the upper left of this page. My fellow "B" Western fans will want to check out these sets.
THE GENTLEMAN FROM TEXAS is a fine 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.