Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Tonight's Movie: When the Daltons Rode (1940) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Tonight I circled back to this summer's Kino Lorber Western Classics I Blu-ray collection and watched the final film in the set, WHEN THE DALTONS RODE (1940).

I previously reviewed the other two films in the collection, THE VIRGINIAN (1946), starring Joel McCrea, and WHISPERING SMITH (1948), starring Alan Ladd.

The Dalton brothers, played by Brian Donlevy, Broderick Crawford, Stuart Erwin, and Frank Albertson, are wronged by a land development company and the law.

Forced to leave their hometown and go on the run, they're blamed by the press for crimes they haven't committed and then start committing crimes for real.

Randolph Scott plays Tod Jackson, a lawyer who was a childhood friend of the Daltons.  He attempts to help them, which is complicated when he falls in love with Julie (Kay Francis), the fiancee of Bob Dalton (Crawford).

I first saw WHEN THE DALTONS RODE back in 2008 and wasn't very impressed.  While still acknowledging it's a relatively minor film, I was pleased to find that I enjoyed the movie more on this viewing.

It's a simple, straightforward plot and nothing really stands out about it, but I think a dozen years of viewing Westerns since my first look at this film caused me to appreciate it more.

Scott and Francis are always welcome in a movie, though they don't have a great deal to do other than spending time looking concerned about the goings-on with the Daltons.

Brian Donlevy likewise is a very reliable actor, although while he's third billed, his character takes something of a back seat to Broderick Crawford's.  I was a bit amused by the idea of Crawford and Francis as a romantic couple, although of course she takes one look at Scott and understandably changes her allegiance pretty quickly.

Francis, who by this stage of her career had left her longtime home at Warner Bros., is rather unusual casting; as I noted in my review back in 2008, a Francis biography says she agreed to appear in it "just for the fun of it" because she wanted to be in a Western.

I enjoyed other familiar faces in the cast, including Fay McKenzie, who I saw speak at the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival.  I also appreciated things like scenes shot at Iverson Ranch, which I've visited multiple times in recent years.  

I think my increased familiarity with the cast and locations contributed to my greater enjoyment this time around.  This is definitely the least of the three films in the set, but they're all nice prints and given my particular enjoyment of the other two movies, I recommend this set for Western fans.

WHEN THE DALTONS RODE was directed by George Marshall and shot in black and white by Hal Mohr.  It runs 81 minutes.

The Blu-ray print looks quite good and has a strong soundtrack.  The disc extras are a commentary track by Toby Roan, the trailer, and an additional trailer for CANYON PASSAGE (1946), which is also available on a Kino Lorber Blu-ray.

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


Blogger barrylane said...

Scott seems to be playing the Melvyn Douglas part, which he does well enough, but not at all what we have become accustomed to seeing him do on screen. I wanted to dislike the film, but no go. Thought it good fun, and Broderick Crawford in winning performance.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I remember when Randolph Scott's character says to Kay Francis something along the lines of "We're not kids anymore." I was impressed with that attitude toward the love triangle in a throw-away line. You never know what will stick with you from a movie.

12:03 PM  
Blogger john k said...

Pretty much agree with your review Laura,Universal gave us more of the same the following year with BADLANDS OF DAKOTA,which again mixed historical characters with fiction: Wild Bill Hickok,(Richard Dix) Calamity Jane (Frances Farmer) and Custer (Addison Richards)
Like WHEN THE DALTONS RODE;BADLANDS OF DAKOTA has excellent stunt and second unit work and is a tad top heavy with comedy. BADLANDS OF DAKOTA also features Ann Rutherford,Broderick Crawford,Robert Stack and Lon Chaney. Both films are for me, easy to take if you are in the mood for that type of film. Rather sad in WHEN THE DALTONS RODE to see George Bancroft in a nothing role especially considering his status in the industry a decade earlier.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all so much for your comments!

That's an interesting comoparison of Scott to a Melvyn Douglas type, Barrylane! I'm glad I saw this film a second time since I found it more enjoyable.

Caftan Woman, that was a good moment, I like that you pointed it out. An unexpectedly mature and serious bit.

John, great to hear from you! I will have to check out BADLANDS OF DAKOTA as I'm fortunate to have a copy! So many movies, so little time... Always appreciate your recommendations.

Best wishes,

11:19 PM  

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