DURANGO 2014

January 14, 2014

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The Year of the Cowboy!

Courtesy of Les Adams

1945. The first film after “The Return of The Durango Kid”.

If we think of the Durango Kid series as a franchise (which it was), then by modern standards this is Spiderman 2 or 3, depending on how you’re counting. It’s Batman Returns.

With that in mind, there’s a few strange things.

For one, the hero has a different name now. He’s Kip Allen. Also, oddly, he has a different job. He’s a Texas Ranger who decides to take some vacation time so he can follow bank robbers across state lines to get back some stolen gold coins.

Imagine a superhero franchise (or any franchise with a central re-occuring character, say “Dirty Harry” or “Indiana Jones” or “Pirates of The Carribean” even) where they change the hero’s name and occupation every film. In “Magnum Force” Harry Callahan is suddenly named Harry Johnson and he’s a veterinarian. Indiana Martin is a book publisher in “Temple of Doom”. Who’s Jack Sparrow? Now it’s Jack Smith and he’s a sports reporter. That’s what we have here.

There seems to be an oblique nod that Kip’s Ranger Boss knows he’s the Kid. I’m not sure on this though. He’s no Alfred, nor is he Commissioner Gordon.

Anyway. Plot:

When he tracks the outlaws to New Mexico, “Kip” hooks up with his old buddy Tex Harding. This is one of the 11 films that Tex Harding made in his two year Hollywood career. Ten of them were Durango Kid films. In most of them, he plays “Tex Harding.” In “Last Days of Boot Hill” he plays “Tex, Steve’s friend.” Guess who Steve is?

From what I’ve seen of him so far, Tex always plays the local guy who Charley helps out. He also sings, not Charley. He also gets the girl, not Charley.

There’s a somewhat unique character in this picture. Grubstake is the loser prospector who hangs out at the saloon bumming money. The owner keeps him around as a good luck charm. Turns out Grubstake has been sending all his begged money to his neice, putting her through prep school (Vassar, perhaps?)

Later, the owner has the idea to launder his stolen gold through Grubstake, making it look like it’s gold from his mine. This allows Grubstake to act like the big shot when his niece comes to visit.

Nothing unique about Charley’s role. He rides the dark horse when he’s Kip and the white one when he’s The Kid.

One twist where Tex dresses up as The Kid to try and help out Grubstake.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Funny bit: Everyone’s familiar with the movie convention where the characters struggle, a gun goes off, a beat, and then one falls dead. Well, in this scene, you can clearly see the gun pointed harmlessly away from both combatants when it goes off. “Cut. Good Enough. Print and move on!”

Also: An actor completely walks all over a Tex line. Charley knows how things go on these pictures, so he just keeps going, but Tex is sort of looking stiffly around like “are we still rolling?” Sure they are, Tex!

“The Jesters” are back, singing “Look Before You Leap” in a rare plot-related song (they’re secretly signaling Charley that it’s an ambush that’s waiting for him in the saloon.)

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures