Thursday, July 27, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Overland Pacific (1954)

Jock Mahoney and Peggie Castle star in the United Artists Western OVERLAND PACIFIC (1954).

Mahoney, billed here as Jack, plays Ross Granger, an undercover railroad agent posing as a telegrapher. His mission is to discover why a railroad line's construction has stalled.

It turns out that a former friend, Del (William Bishop), is responsible. Del is paying Indians to attack the railroad crews because he wants the tracks rerouted to pass his town, although the surveyor (Walter Sande) says that route is unfeasible.

The surveyor who refuses to cooperate is killed by one of Del's men, never mind that Del is romancing the surveyor's daughter Ann (Castle). That said, as soon as Ann gets a look at Ross she clearly realizes she has the opportunity to switch her affections to a much better man, and she begins to back off her relationship with Del.

This is a fairly modest, run-of-the-mill Western which plays a bit like an expanded TV episode, an impression accentuated by the humdrum Simi Valley locations. Even so, I enjoyed it quite well. The 73-minute film moves like lightning -- perhaps even a little too fast, as I would have liked more development of the Mahoney-Castle relationship -- and there are a number of original touches.

First and foremost the movie benefits from its leads. Longtime stuntman Mahoney has a couple of brutal fight scenes in this, and just as in the later SHOWDOWN AT ABILENE (1956), it's clearly him onscreen all the way. A couple of his flips are worthy of a Gene Kelly dance, they're that good.

Castle is really lovely in this, and she plays a girl with spunk. In the final battle with the Indians she's shooting a rifle and lighting sticks of dynamite right alongside Mahoney. They're well matched.

Adele Jergens, who always strikes me as vaguely reminiscent of Virginia Mayo yet is an interesting film presence in her own right, is an added plus as the saloon gal carrying a torch for Del. Her final confrontation scene with Del is memorable.

Bishop always works well as the slimy chief villain. Chubby Johnson, who was in countless film and TV Westerns, has a larger role than usual as a crooked sheriff in cahoots with Del.

The color cinematography by Lester White is faded; the credits said the color was by Color Corporation of America, which according to Wikipedia took over Cinecolor.

OVERLAND PACIFIC was directed by Fred F. Sears.

The movie doesn't appear to be available on DVD or VHS. It's been playing recently on the Starz/Encore Westerns Channel.

Western fans could do much worse than spending time with Mahoney and Castle in this entertaining little Western.


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

I'm delighted to find you reviewing this rarely-seen little western, Laura! Peggie Castle and Jack Mahoney starring - that would always be enough for me!
Mahoney was billed Jack throughout the first half of the 50s where he was co-starring in the Durango Kid film series concurrent with his starring role in his hugely successful "THE RANGE RIDER" TV series. When he signed a contract with Universal for some bigger-budgeted films, mostly westerns, he renamed himself professionally as Jock (so around 1955-6).
"OVERLAND PACIFIC" is not in the same league as his Universals but is, for me, good fun and well worth the watch.

11:39 PM  
Blogger john k said...

Interesting about Color Corp of America replacing Cinecolor.
Sadly most films made in that process don't seem to exist and it's good that
OVERLAND PACIFIC seems to survive. I may be wrong but Color Corp Of America
was used mainly on United Artists pictures. I understand a master neg for
THE YELLOW TOMAHAWK exists but is only shown on TV in black & white.
I also understand that a master neg for SABRE JET exists-I really want to see
this one in color-the cast for me is very appealing:Robert Stack,Coleen Gray,
Richard Arlen,Julie Bishop.
The film is a very interesting artifact of it's era at times it makes THE GREEN
BERETS look like a pacifist film! When SABRE JET is not Commie bashing it's very
good indeed and Stack and Gray are excellent.
Sadly another color corp of America the delightfully cheesy CAPTAIN KIDD AND
THE SLAVE GIRL only exists in black & white with no color elements surviving.
I did catch OVERLAND PACIFIC at a revival cinema back in the 60's and enjoyed it
at the time.

6:13 AM  
Blogger Bill O said...

He was paid tribute in Brian Keith's "Jocko", in Burt Reynolds' paean to stuntpeople, HOOPER.

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is one I've been trying to track down. Now you've REALLY got me wanting to see it. Sears' Westerns are typically really good, and you can't go wrong with Mahoney or Castle.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all so much for the feedback!

Jerry, when I first became aware of Jock Mahoney I admit I was quite confused by his constantly evolving name! LOL. I agree, OVERLAND PACIFIC is good fun.

John, that's great info on Color Corp. of America. I have a B&W TV recording of THE YELLOW TOMOHAWK and have also seen SABRE JET in B&W. I would certainly like to see both films as they were originally released! What fun you saw OVERLAND PACIFIC on a big screen.

Bill, I saw HOOPER as a kid when it was released in theaters but don't remember it well. I recorded it from TCM not long ago and am quite curious to see it in a new context.

Toby, you're so right, you can't go wrong with Mahoney and Castle! I sure wish this one would get a DVD release. I'm certain everyone commenting here would buy it, including me!

Best wishes,

12:06 AM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

You probably know that his actual name was Jacques O'Mahoney. No wonder he simplified it!

11:28 AM  

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