Monday, August 28, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Cross Fire (1933) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Tom Keene stars in CROSS FIRE (1933), a quirky and entertaining WWI-era Western just released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

My previous sole experience with Keene as a Western hero, COME ON DANGER! (1932), left me less than impressed, but I wanted to give him a second chance. I'm glad I did, as I found CROSS FIRE to be a fun 55 minutes, starting with the nicely scored opening credits.

Keene plays Tom Allen, who runs a Sierra mine for five elderly businessmen who are beloved father figures for him. Tom goes off to fight in WWI, leaving the mine's management to Bert (Eddie Phillips)...but Bert turns out not to be the nice guy everyone thought he was.

Tom returns from Europe to find one of his friends framed for murder, and they're all hiding out in the mountains. Tom needs to find a way to clear the men and bring Bert, the man behind the crimes, to justice.

Betty Furness, who plays Tom's love interest Pat, is introduced near the start of the film as a schoolgirl in a sailor suit who moons over the dashing Tom; then when he returns from the war she's a more grown-up young lady.

The movie has unique little touches, such as Tom racing past the town's lone stoplight on horseback, spinning the sign whle a jalopy sits at the "intersection." Production values are good, including a nicely designed outdoor lunch counter operated by Pat and some impressive stunt work jumping into a lake -- although I think they really had a horse make the jump along with a stuntman, yikes!

The film does a good job melding a traditional Western with the more modern era in a logical way, which helps the film stand out a bit from the norm. (The final gun battle is a doozy, including a machine gun!) In this regard the film seems more authentic than later Westerns set in what I call "Roy Rogers Land," a mashup of eras which doesn't really make sense, though it's fun.

CROSS FIRE was one of a dozen RKO Westerns starring Keene. He plays a good-natured man, very much the type of role George O'Brien made his own in Westerns throughout the '30s; one could easily envision O'Brien in this role. All in all this film was a big improvement over the previous Keene Western I'd seen, and I'll be looking for more of his films in the future.

The solid cast includes Edgar Kennedy, Stanley Blystone, and Lafe McKee, plus Yakima Canutt handling the stunts.

CROSS FIRE was directed by Otto Brower and filmed by Nicholas Musuraca. Locations included Vasquez Rocks and Red Rock Canyon, two spots I frequently drive past on my trips to the Sierras.

The print quality is good, especially considering the film's age. There are no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


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