Saturday, February 07, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Trail Street (1947) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

I mentioned in last week's review of GUNFIGHTERS (1947) that the recent Randolph Scott Blogathon had inspired me to try to catch up with more of Randolph Scott's Westerns.

I'm happy to say I'll be doing just that as I review the wonderful 5-film Randolph Scott Classics Collection from the Warner Archive.

First up for review from the set is the RKO Western TRAIL STREET (1947), in which Scott stars as famed lawman Bat Masterson.

The film is a bit slow out of the starting gate, focusing on the travails of earnest young land agent Allen Harper (Robert Ryan) in Liberal, Kansas.

Liberal has multiple problems, from wild cowboys to farmers unable to grow crops in the dry summer heat to evil Logan Maury (Steve Brodie) and Carmody (Billy House).

Fortunately help is on the way, with Scott's Bat Masterson arriving 20 minutes into the movie; his entrance is worth waiting for, as he promptly reaches through the stagecoach window to knock out a trigger-happy gunman.

Allen is in love with Susan (Madge Meredith), while Allen's foster sister, saloon girl Ruby (Anne Jeffreys), is in love with Logan, but Logan tries to convince Susan to marry him. The romantic mix-ups cause everyone a lot of grief, especially as Susan doesn't know Allen's relationship with Ruby and misconstrues them meeting one evening.

It will surprise no one that Bat, Allen, and Deputy Billy (Gabby Hayes) restore law and order to Liberal in the span of 84 minutes, and the romantic issues are straightened out as well.

This is what one might call a "run-of-the-mill" '40s Western; there's nothing especially original about it and the script could have been a little sharper, but all in all it's pleasant entertainment with a fine cast headed by the genial Scott.

It's fun to watch Scott's Masterson at work, whether he's refusing to shake the oily Carmody's hand or taking away the guns of every man in town. In the best action scene, he's talking to Logan when he realizes someone else is hiding in the room; he not only brings the man out of hiding but forces him out the door, and the man promptly takes a bullet which had been meant for Bat.

This was Ryan's first film after his wartime service, and it's a much lighter performance than is typically associated with Ryan; 1947 would also see the release of the noir classic CROSSFIRE (1947) in which he played a character who was dark indeed.

Anne Jeffreys' saloon girl is the more interesting of the film's two leading ladies; she's gorgeous and has some good dramatic scenes along with the chance to sing a couple of numbers. Meredith's fickle Susan is rather annoying for most of the film, though she redeems herself in the climactic action sequence by picking up a gun and plugging Lance Larkin (perennial Western villain Harry Woods) in order to save Bat's life.

TRAIL STREET was directed by Ray Enright and filmed by J. Roy Hunt. The script by Norman Houston and Gene Lewis was based on a book by William Corcoran. The opening narration is performed by Ray Collins.

The black and white print on this Warner Archive DVD looks just fine. There are no extras.

In addition to the Randolph Scott set, TRAIL STREET is also available from the Warner Archive as a single-title DVD release.

For more on TRAIL STREET, please visit Jerry Entract's blogathon post on the movie at 50 Westerns From the 50s. Be sure to read all the comments following Jerry's post -- how cool is it that our friend Blake Lucas's father-in-law, Jack Gross, was the executive producer of TRAIL STREET?

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 at the Warner Archive website.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I generally liken "Trail Street" to "The Wizard of Oz". Remember at the end of Oz when Dorothy explains how some of the place was terrible, but most of it was beautiful but all the time she kept telling everyone she wanted to go home and they sent her home? I say that in "Trail Street" Bat Masterson had a job to do, but all the time he kept telling people he wanted to be a writer and they sent him to New York so he could become one. Make sense? Am I crazy?

7:56 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I like that, Caftan Woman! :)

I was wondering how he could give up the law when he was so good at it!

Best wishes,

12:26 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Thanks for the mention, Laura!

I'm looking forward to all your reviews of these Scotts in this set.

11:37 PM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

Very succinct review; and I really couldn't agree more with you about this one.

Random thought: I liked how Logan's henchman showed some individuality at the end. An interesting touch, and a historically justified one, I think, given the circumstances!

11:55 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jerry, thank *you* for the inspiration to check this film out! I'm very excited to see more of Scott's non-Boetticher Westerns and I've had a great start seeing three of them over the past few days. :)

Glad to know you enjoyed this one as well, Maricatrin! There were definitely some very well-done moments in this film.

Best wishes,

7:33 PM  

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