Monday, March 05, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Sunset Pass (1946)

SUNSET PASS (1946) is the middle of three '40s RKO "B" Westerns starring James Warren.

While Tim Holt was away due to wartime service, Robert Mitchum filled in at RKO in the "B" Westerns NEVADA (1944) and WEST OF THE PECOS (1945). Mitchum's star was rising, thanks to STORY OF G.I. JOE (1945), and he bowed out of the Western series after just two films.

Next up was Warren, who initially starred in WANDERER OF THE WASTELAND (1945), followed by SUNSET PASS and finally CODE OF THE WEST (1947), after which Holt returned to RKO. Holt had made a detour along the way back to the studio, appearing as one of the Earp brothers in John Ford's MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946) for 20th Century-Fox.

All of Warren's Westerns were based on Zane Grey stories, with screenplays written by Norman Houston.

Richard Martin had appeared in his long-running role as sidekick Chito in the Mitchum films and WANDERER OF THE WASTELAND, but after that John Laurenz played the part opposite Warren in both SUNSET PASS and CODE OF THE WEST. Laurenz isn't very memorable, and once Holt returned to the RKO "B" Western in THUNDER MOUNTAIN (1947), Martin was the sole actor to play Chito for the next half-decade.

SUNSET PASS is quite a good "B" Western, with a strong story, good supporting cast, and excellent Lone Pine location work. As was the case in the other Warren films I've reviewed, he's on the bland side -- sort of a less flashy Bill Elliott type, if that's possible -- but he works well enough to get the job done.

Rocky (Warren) and Chito (Laurenz) are hired by banker Daab (Harry Harvey) to protect a large shipment of money but lose it during a train robbery. Rocky is suspicious when Jane (Nan Leslie), one of the train passengers, interferes with him shooting one of the robbers as he rides away, and sure enough, Jane's brother Ash (Robert Clarke) is involved in a bad news gang headed by Cinnabar (perennial Western baddie Harry Woods). Bank clerk Slagle (Steve Brodie) is also part of the gang.

Rocky and Chito work to track down the money, while also helping local man Rand Curtis (Robert Barrat), whose son is missing. Rocky and Jane also work on reforming Ash after Ash saves Rocky's life.

Levity is added by Jane Greer as dance hall performer Lolita; Greer gets to provide comic relief and also sing a couple numbers, as she later would in the more prestigious Western STATION WEST (1948).

William Berke directed. The movie was filmed in black and white by Frank Redman. There are plenty of great shots of the Alabama Hills; this film really shows off the rock formations to great effect.

Like other RKO Westerns based on Zane Grey stories, SUNSET PASS is available on DVD from Lions Gate. It's a good print.

The DVD runs 60 minutes, slightly less than the IMDb running time which is listed as 64 minutes. I didn't notice any continuity issues.

I enjoyed this quite well and recommend all of Warren's "B" Westerns along with those starring Holt and Mitchum.


Blogger John G. said...

Thanks for the review, Laura.

Despite being a big Jane Greer fan, I don't have this one (but will pick up a copy now). People at IMDb aren't very keen on this movie. Plus, I got the impression that Greer doesn't have much of a role, and I already have plenty of her movies where I'm disappointed that she has a minor part instead of rightly being the leading lady. This happened most recently with "Sinbad the Sailor" and Maureen O'Hara.

Anyway, thanks again!

4:21 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi John! You're very welcome. If you're a Jane Greer fan I think you will find this one worthwhile -- she has several scenes and is quite fun. She's not the leading lady but she has a more colorful role than Nan Leslie, who has a fairly bland part. Hope you'll find it enjoyable!

Best wishes,

6:23 PM  

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