Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Men Without Law (1930)

Buck Jones stars in the Western MEN WITHOUT LAW (1930), his third sound film.

Buck plays Buck Healy, who as the movie begins is in the trenches of WWI. Buck rescues his friend Ramon (Donald Reed), but Ramon dies after a month in an army hospital.

Buck and Ramon learned while serving together that they lived near one another, and Buck is anxious to meet Ramon's sister Juanita (Carmelita Geraghty). However, upon arriving home Buck must first deal with his kid brother Tom (Thomas Carr, who later directed many Westerns). Tom has fallen in with a bad gang headed by Murdock (Harry Woods).

It all gets a bit complicated, but evil Murdock ends up impersonating Buck at Juanita's home, intending to rob her father. It's up to Buck to save both his brother and Juanita's family from the bad guys.

MEN WITHOUT LAW is what I'd consider a mid-range Buck Jones Western. It has some very nice moments, but I felt as though the plot of this 65-minute film was a bit sluggish and not as interesting as it could be. It perhaps could have used more of Buck Jones front and center in the story and less of Harry Woods' masquerade or Tom's problems; unfortunately Buck spends much of the movie locked up in various places!

I especially enjoyed scenes such as the sheriff (Fred Burns) letting Tom go home to see his mother after arresting him, keeping Buck at the jail in Tom's stead. There's some very nice interplay between Buck and the sheriff throughout the film. Buck also has a touching reunion scene with his mother (Lydia Knott).

There's some effective music, including a cowboy mournfully singing "I'm an Old Cowhand," and there are also some very nice shots, such as Buck and Juanita riding into the sunlight in the final scene. The movie was filmed by Ted McCord.

Incidentally, this is one of those Westerns which was set after WWI, but everyone rides around on horseback or in a carriage -- not a car in sight in Buck's hometown, and I don't think there were any telephones either!

Dorothy Howell's screenplay was based on a story by another future director, Lewis Seiler, billed here as Lou. The film was directed by Louis King and the uncredited Arthur Rosson.

MEN WITHOUT LAW is available on DVD in the Sony Choice Collection. It's quite a nice print.

Previous Buck Jones reviews: JUST PALS (1920), THE DEADLINE (1931), RIDIN' FOR JUSTICE (1932), FORBIDDEN TRAIL (1932), UNKNOWN VALLEY (1933), THE MAN TRAILER (1934), BOSS OF LONELY VALLEY (1937), ARIZONA BOUND (1941), and THE GUNMAN FROM BODIE (1941).

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