Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Moonlight on the Prairie (1935) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

MOONLIGHT ON THE PRAIRIE (1935) is the earliest entry in the 12-film Dick Foran Western Collection, available from the Warner Archive.

This 1935 Western is definitely creakier than the pair of engaging films from this set which I've previously viewed, CALIFORNIA MAIL (1936) and LAND BEYOND THE LAW (1937).

MOONLIGHT ON THE PRAIRIE is an old-fashioned melodrama, with the handsome cowboy saving the pretty young widow (Sheila Mannors, also known as Sheila Bromley) and her little boy (Dickie Jones) from men who want to steal her ranch. Good ol' Joe Sawyer and Robert Barrat head up the bad guys.

The other aspect which makes it verge onto the corny side is that frequently when there's a chase or a fistfight, the film speed is cranked up, which makes it look silly.

That said, this is a good-natured film which I enjoyed spending 63 minutes with despite these flaws. It's fast-paced entertainment with some nice moments scattered throughout. For instance, one of the fun aspects is that young Bill Elliott, billed as Gordon, shows up midway through as a good guy who helps Foran.

I especially loved that the movie was filmed up in the Sierras at June Lake by Fred Jackman Jr.; some of the scenes are just beautiful. When Foran sang the title song at the end with the lake sparkling in the background, I was a happy camper.

IMDb says the movie was also filmed in Lone Pine. While the Alabama Hills weren't in evidence, I suspect some of the ranch or medicine show scenes might have been filmed somewhere in the Lone Pine area such as Anchor Ranch.

The wind rustles in the trees pretty strongly during some of the location scenes; I always enjoy things like that in "B" Westerns, as it gives the viewer more of a sense of how it must have felt standing there in front of the camera 80 years ago!

Scroll down the page at Western Clippings for a behind-the-scenes shot of the lead actors and director taken on the location set.

MOONLIGHT ON THE PRAIRIE was directed by D. Ross Lederman.

Additional cast members include George E. Stone (later of the Boston Blackie series), Joe King, Milton Kibbee, and Raymond Brown. Keep your eyes open for Glenn Strange as a henchman and Joan Barclay as a saloon girl.

The print looked very nice, and the DVD includes the trailer. The dozen films in this Warner Archive set are spread across four discs; so far I've had three of the four discs in my player and all nine films had trailers.

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 john k said...

Caveat emptor!

I received my copy of the DICK FORAN WESTERN COLLECTION and was hugely disappointed.
The item arrived smashed to bits.
This was mainly due to the flimsy sub-standard case Warners packaged this set in.
Other four disc sets I have had from Warners have sturdy cases with proper dividers.
The fragile and useless packaging on the Foran set had no dividers just crude
spindles attached to each side of the case.
Furthermore the discs all fell loose from this terrible packaging and were badly
I am very annoyed,to say the least as the darn thing cost me over fifty bucks with
postage and taxes. Luckily Amazon have a customer friendly returns police.
I know Warners are having a terrible year with one expensive box office disaster
following another. Their policy of giving mega budgets to producers of past hits
has truly come unstuck. I seriously worry about the future of Warner Archive if this
trend continues.
Surely things have not got so bad that Warners have to skimp on their DVD cases!

7:42 AM  
Blogger john k said...

Hi Laura,

After my gripe let me comment on the Foran set.
Firstly the print quality is excellent,especially considering the age and rarity
of the films. The 20 minute Technicolor short is a lovely bonus,as are the
trailers for the 12 films.
I have only given these films a cursory glance but I must say I'm not too sure
about my opinion of Foran as a cowboy hero.
I thought he might be your "new" George O'Brien but now I don't think so.
I mainly know Foran from the excellent character actor he became in later years
Furthermore I think I preferred him in some of the Universal Horrors that he did
opposed to Westerns.
The films in the Warners set do look like lots of fun but sadly I've got to post
this set back to Amazon regarding the problems I outlined in my previous post.

One thing's for sure Foran will never eclipse Buck Jones my all time fave
B Movie cowboy.

We ALL need more Buck Jones in our lives! :)

7:53 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi John!

That is really interesting as your set appears to have been packaged differently from mine. My set has two dividers in it, in the same style as other Warner Archive sets I own, and there is one disc (firmly) attached on each side of the two dividers. There's nothing attached to the inside covers of the case. Did your set have two discs on each spindle on each side of the case? That's really odd. I wonder why the sets went out two different ways?! I wonder if Warner will send you a set with the dividers?

I don't think Foran has the same level of heroic/romantic appeal as George O'Brien, but I'm definitely finding this set fun 25% of the way into it. Hope to review another one soon!

Best wishes,

9:10 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi again John, I had another thought. The Warner Archive DVDs are prepared at different facilities for places like Amazon; that's why you can only get pressed discs directly from the WBShop, which isn't an option for you in the UK.

Since you're in the UK and had to order from Amazon, I wonder if the type of packaging is an issue with whoever is handling the Archive orders for Amazon, rather than a problem with WB -- I'm wondering if WB is aware of the type of packaging? It would be interesting to know. It occurred to me that probably explained why each of us received sets packaged so differently.

Best wishes,

5:37 PM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

This was the film that gave an enterprising Columbia executive the idea to cast Gordon Elliott as the star of their next western serial: "I've always had a particular soft spot for MOONLIGHT ON THE PRAIRIE, because it gave me my first break in horse operas. No, I wasn't the hero... in fact, I got myself killed halfway way through... but I did play the hero's pal and had a chance to get in some good Western action before they polished me off." ~ "Wild Bill" Elliott.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Mary! Thank you so much for adding that color to this post, it's a wonderful addition about the role of the film in the career of Wild Bill Elliott.

Best wishes,

6:55 PM  

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