“Cattle Raiders”

August 21, 2008

We hear about Charles’ character before we meet him.  He’s Tom Reynolds, oldest son of Jim Reynolds and heir to the Lazy R Ranch, on the lam for having killed the Sheriff – a crime he’s falsely accused of.  His father is a cripple.  His brother is a gambler and a lout.  The only ranchhand keeping the ranch together just left.  The land is fallow and “run down.”

Sounds almost biblical.

Tom rides back to town to set things right.  In the absence of Law & Order, Dick Curtis has thrived – working both sides of the fence as a cattle rustler and Sheriff/Prosecutor pro-temp.

This is a difficult film to watch for we serious Starrett fans.  Not only is Charley named “Tom,” but his brother is named “Steve.”  Very confusing.

In these earlier pictures, Charley still lapses into his heavy vaudeville voice, “Start Walking! First one to turn around, gets it!” and “Someone’s going to hang for that killing and it ain’t me!”

Between some good riding scenes and not enough fighting, we have a real lazy who-dunnit.  It turns out to be a double/double cross: Curtis shot the Sheriff, convinced Steve that he did and gets him to frame Tom.

Film ends with a loooong (15 minutes, one-quarter of the running time) courtroom scene.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t watch Westerns to see trial scenes.  I object!

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

I’m not sure that forensic science was this evolved in 1870 – proving Tom and Steve’s innocence involves matching two bullets to the same gun.  Now, there’s an idea – “CSI: Tombstone.”

Along the way, Charles sings!  He’s in jail and the Sons of the Pioneers are keeping him company.  “Hey! Since we’re stuck in here all night, how about a tune!”  He does that talk/singing, it’s one of those tall-tale bragging type songs and he “sings” a verse.  It sure sounds like Charley’s real voice.

I’ve seen some lame devices to pad or stretch the film.  Stock footage of cattle, riding scenes, etc.  But this takes the cake.  They stretch the film by 3 minutes easy by having a doctor lock and unlock doors.  It goes on and on and on…

Iris Meredith gets a kiss from Charley in the back of a wagon at the end, but otherwise is barely in the picture.

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