Sunday, April 15, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Trigger, Jr. (1950) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

The Roy Rogers Western TRIGGER, JR. (1950) will be released this week on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino Lorber, and it looks spectacular.

Kino describes it as a brand-new HD master from a 4K scan of the original 35mm Trucolor nitrate negatives from the Paramount Pictures Archives. That's a mouthful, but all I can say regarding the resulting picture is "Wow!" We can only hope more such great-looking films will be forthcoming from Kino. As many Western fans are aware, Roy's films haven't always had the best care over the years, and Kino is doing film fans and film history a great service by presenting his films in such beautiful condition.

The story of this Republic Pictures film, such as it is, finds Roy and his wild west circus show setting up for an extended stay at a ranch owned by Colonel Harkrider (George Cleveland). The colonel lives with his daughter Kay (Dale Evans) and his young grandson Larry (Peter Miles of THE RED PONY), son of another daughter who died.

There's a range war of sorts going on, with villain Manson (Grant Withers) and his "Range Patrol" operating a protection racket which would make New York mobsters proud.

It's a pretty short film, with the action wrapped up in 68 minutes. There are some colorful bits, including trapeze artists, but plotwise, I confess TRIGGER, JR. didn't do a great deal for me compared to other Rogers films I've seen.

First and foremost, I'm not particularly fond of films focused on horses, though I'll watch them, but this film had horses in peril, injured horses, masked horses, and even a creepy nightmare for young Larry, who's terrified of horses. It was all a little much. More music and fewer horses, please!

The film had some other sour notes, such as the embittered colonel, who at one point tells his grandson that he's turning into his no-account father. Nice granddad!

Additionally, while I loved watching Roy and Dale in TV reruns as a kid and have read countless books on the Rogers family by both Dale Evans and her stepdaughter Cheryl Rogers Barnett, Roy and Dale don't have any chemistry in this one. It's not just the absence of a romance, but you'd think there would at least be a sort of connection between them, some spark in their dialogue, but if it's there I didn't see it.

All this said, TRIGGER, JR. has some strong advocates among my fellow Western fans, so as the saying goes, "Your mileage may vary." It could be this one just didn't quite hit me the right way but others will find more to enjoy.

The supporting cast includes Gordon Jones, Pat Brady, I. Stanford Jolley, and Stanley Andrews.

The movie was directed by William Witney, who directed a previous Roy Rogers Kino release from the same year, SUNSET IN THE WEST (1950). I thought SUNSET IN THE WEST was wonderful so hopefully the next Rogers film I see will strike me more like that one!

This week I'll be listening to the commentary track by Toby Roan and Jay Dee Witney, son of the director. I've listened to every one of Toby's Kino commentaries, and they've all been excellent. The addition of Witney should be a nice bonus.

There's also a trailer gallery for four Westerns available from Kino Lorber.

Coming soon, a review of another Western from Kino Lorber, SINGING GUNS (1950) with Vaughn Monroe, Ella Raines, Ward Bond, and Walter Brennan. I'm really looking forward to checking this one out! Like TRIGGER, JR., it's from a brand-new HD master and will be available as of April 17th, 2018.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Yes, I'm one of those that really like "TRIGGER JR", Laura (what a surprise LOL!). Having just bought a BluRay player, finally, this is just the film for me to get in that format. As you so rightly say, Roy's films have been generally not well looked-after over the years. Kino have now given us two of them in presentations that exceed all previous expectations; let's hope there will be more. A number of the Witney-directed films have only been preserved in b&w. It would be really nice if there was any possibility of those being available for restoration. Not impossible as we do now have a restored colour transfer of "SPRINGTIME IN THE SIERRAS". Fingers crossed.

11:34 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

A big congrats on the Blu-ray player, Jerry! Wow, that's exciting!

I'm so glad you shared your liking for this film -- the picture looks so good, and it might be that someone without my aversion to the sort of creepy horses in this film will really enjoy it, as I know it's a popular title for many Rogers fans.

I am really hoping for more great-looking Rogers films -- hopefully with a lot more music in them. :)

Best wishes,

12:08 AM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Hi Laura!
I think Witney as brought on board the Rogers films in 1946 to reduce the music content and up the action - he certainly did that!

The biggest (surprise) bonus with this particular blu-ray player I have bought is that it also enhances every DVD to a new level too (it's called an 'upscaler') and the result is actually quite stunning.

12:37 AM  
Blogger Lee R said...

With all the talk of Peggy Cummins recently, I decided to watch "Green Grass of Wyoming" I was happy to see it also had another favorite of mine, Charles Coburn in it. And the color was BEAUTIFUL!! Wow, so was Peggy, in color she is really a vision! She acted complete opposite of her character in Gun Crazy, it was nice to see Peggy as a sweetheart for a change.

Anyway, you made me think of this movie because of your talk of horses, "Green Grass of Wyoming" was also all about horses and winning a trotting race (with Coburn as jockey!!!). It was enjoyable to watch, but for a lover of horses I would think it would be more of a pleasure. I'm not a big horse fan except as a means of transportation. But you (Laura) might like this movie, a horse does get sick, but turns out she's having a baby.

As for Trigger Jr. I saw this movie about 2 years ago and forget most of the details. I would like to see it though in it's "new and improved" color restoration. Looks like I'll have to buy this movie again, something I try to avoid nowadays after having been suckered into buying the same movies over and over in the past when formats change. I may make an exception to the rule for this one though, Roy's a favorite too.

4:04 AM  
Blogger J Hall said...

Lee and Laura...I read your comments on "Green Grass of Wyoming" and thought I might add a couple of links you might find interesting.
I live about 40 miles away from Lancaster, Ohio where the film's fairground scenes were filmed in 1948. The first link is to an article about the death of Peggy Cummins and contains info about her appearance in Lancaster for the 50th anniversary date of the movie's production.

The following link is an article about the film being shown at an area drive-in theatre for the 70th anniversary of the Lancaster filming.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Mary-Catherine said...

Jerry, I'm also a fan of Roy's Witney films. And his earlier efforts (such as THE ARIZONA KID 1939), before Yates tried to make "Oklahoma!" in every state (as Roy himself once joked.) While there are a few musicals I love, I'm not really a wholehearted fan of the genre, which is why Roy's middle period is my least favorite. Also, as a lover of Country-Western music and the Sons of the Pioneers in particular, I feel they tended to get swamped in the big production numbers in some of those films.

While the Riders aren't the Pioneers, I really enjoyed the "Stampede" number, it reminded me of Stan Roger's classic "Ghost Riders." And I've been a horse lover since I was a little girl, Smoky the Cowhorse being my favorite horse story (it's got some rough events in it too), so I guess I'm okay with creepy horses (lol). But not all of the Rogers-Witney teamings are quite as - intense? - as this one. Laura, if you can get a hold of a decent copy of ON THE OLD SPANISH TRAIL (1947), I venture to say that I think you'd enjoy it very much.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Mary-Catherine said...

Oops, of course, that *should* read "Stan JONES." (But I love Stan Roger's music too!)

6:29 PM  
Blogger Walter S. said...

Maricatrin and Jerry. I'm a fan of Roy Rogers and William Witney movies. THE GOLDEN STALLION(1949) is a good one to see. It is unique, so I'm not going to be a spoiler, just see it. I liked Roy's movies from 1938-41, especially when Gabby Hayes joined in '39. The other night I watched ON THE OLD SPANISH TRAIL(1947) and I enjoyed it. I have the 75 minute black and white version. I think Laura and others would enjoy it. I think the trucolor version of the movie is lost, until found. It is hard to believe that Gary Tooze, over at DVDbeaver, had never seen a Roy Rogers movie until he reviewed TRIGGER, JR.(1950).

SMOKY THE COWHORSE(1926) written by the incomparable Will James, was a favorite when I was a youngster and still is.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Maricatrin and Walter,
I'm completely with you on the 3 distinctive Roy Rogers periods, my least favourite being the big musicals era. Although Roy was sort of still in that period when he made the magnificent "MY PAL TRIGGER" (1946), an absolute favourite of mine, quite a serious film and happily plenty of Gabby.
Gary of DVD Beaver never having previously seen a Rogers movie does not surprise me. A friend of mine, a huge fan and student of westerns has a 15-year old grandson who has never heard of John Wayne! Frightening, isn't it?

12:21 PM  
Blogger Walter S. said...

Jerry, I really like MY PAL TRIGGER also. It was a forerunner to the movies Roy would make with William Witney. When I was eight years old I got to see Roy Rogers and shake his hand(rather a pat on top of my hand) as he rode horseback around the edge of a rodeo arena at the old Arkansas Exposition and Rodeo in Little Rock. Roy would lean over and pat the children's hands. This was a great thrill for so many youngsters and I'm sure most would remain life long fans, as I have.

I think it is rather sad that so many, of a certain age, have never heard of or watched a Roy Rogers or John Wayne movie. I think it is high time that we do our part, when there is an opportunity, in introducing the younger generations to our and their cultural heritage.

7:50 AM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Getting young folk interested in old cinema is sadly an uphill climb, Walter! It does happen, thankfully, but it's hard work. I don't understand it myself as I will watch movies from the start of sound to the present. Of course WE know they don't know what they're missing.

12:19 PM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

I love the story of your childhood contact with Roy, Walter. I really envy that.

My Dad, who had captained LCI troop ships in the Royal Navy during WW2, once told me how he had been in New York at one point and had been to see Roy Rogers at Madison Square Garden. I wish he were still around so I could find out the surrounding circumstances of that visit. Dad later always bought me Roy's latest western comic as they came out.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Walter S. said...

Jerry, that was neat about your Father captaining Royal Navy troop ships and going to Madison Square Garden to see Roy Rogers perform. Also, the comics.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all so much for carrying on the discussion without me the last few days! It's been a crazy week between trying to wrap up work ahead of my TCM Fest vacation while also commuting to L.A. for several nights of the Noir City Fest!

You've all shared wonderful information and special Roy Rogers memories, loved it all. It's also fun to hear from those who prefer the "action" Rogers films -- I love Western music so I guess that's what I'm looking for first and foremost.

Maricatrin and Walter, I've got a TCM copy of ON THE OLD SPANISH TRAIL -- it's recorded to VHS so I've had it a while! Haven't caught up with it yet so making a note to pull it out. Thanks to you both for mentioning it! Love the Sons of the Pioneers.

Lee, I've also got a VHS recording from Fox Movie Ch. of GREEN GRASS OF WYOMING, thank you for the recommendation! I need to see more Peggy Cummins. :)

John, thank you so much for the GREEN GRASS OF WYOMING links. I have now shared them on Twitter -- Peggy has many fans I'm sure will be interested to take a look as well, and who knows, perhaps the info on the May screening will reach someone who can attend!

Jerry, so happy you're enjoying that new Blu-ray player!

Thank you all again for a wonderful discussion!

Best wishes,

6:00 PM  
Blogger Lee R said...

By the way, ON THE OLD SPANISH TRAIL is one of the 6 Roy Rogers movies filmed in color BUT now they are only found in b/w. That is found, so far. I'm sure the color versions are available somewhere, basement, attic, closet, they've got to be stored somewhere. Still don't get how we can see movies from more than 100 years ago yet these movies filmed in the early '50's are supposedly gone. Like Judge Judy says, if it doesn't sound right it's not.

9:31 PM  

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