June 17, 2010
Hold on tight to them reins, cowboys. And you green-horns better get a good hold on that saddle horn. Over the next few posts, I’m gonna lay out THREE as-yet-unseen-by-me westerns starring Charles Starrett. “The Colorado Trail,” “West of Santa Fe”, and “Spoilers of the Range.” All from 1938. All newly released on DVD by Sinister Cinema.
I call it the Non-Steve Series. Yes, of the handful of westerns where Charley wasn’t named “Steve”, we have a trifecta here. And — good news — no annoying ‘comedy’ from Smiley Burnette and his stupid black hat!
First up is “The Colorado Trail”. Charles plays a traveling cowboy. He’s a gunfighter for hire. He’s Grant Bradley.
And, boy, is he Grant Bradley!
“Everyone’s heard of Grant Bradley, fastest draw in three states!”
“That’s Grant Bradley, fastest lead-slinger west of Santa Fe!”
“You didn’t have a chance. That was Grant Bradley!”
“That was no common cowhand. That was Grant Bradley!”
Here’s that bad ass Grant Bradley hisself!
Yeah, he’s still Steve to me. A big corny guy who wears a white hat AND a white scarf. AND rides a white horse. Who says stuff like “mighty nice singing.” Who licks a guy in a fist fight and says “Next time you decide to play jokes, make sure no one’s life is in danger, especially not a woman’s!”
Grant gallops into Willow Springs where a range war is brewing. The boss of the Sundown outfit is building an army of gunfighters with his foreman, Slash (Dick Curtis). Grant pledges his gun to the smaller ranchers. For a gunfighter with a big reputation, Grant has a real easy smile and mannered ways. He’s also incredibly level-headed, suggesting that gun play might not be the answer — how about calling a meeting?
It turns out that bad guy boss Sheldon (Al Bridge) is Grant’s FATHER! They have a bitter back-story involving Grant witnessing a brutal murder by his father’s hands. Sheldon offers his son the world, but Grant doesn’t want anything to do with it. This means the two are headed towards a showdown. “Remember, son, I taught you everything you know about a gun.”
Sure enough, the film ends with a shoot-out. This is a tougher sort of Starrett film. Grant squares off with his father and shoots him dead…naw, he shoots the gun out of his hand. But dad does end up dead, which is a lot rougher justice than the later films allow.
Along the way, there’s a runaway stagecoach, a couple of good fights with Dick Curtis, a courtroom trial (groan), some pretty decent plot twists and a tracking shot!
And did I mention — no Smiley!
Interesting footnote: Al Bridges played a regular on the 1954 TV series “Range Rider” starring long-time Starrett stuntman Jack Mahoney.