“Desert Vigilante”

July 2, 2008

I was happy to find that at least one Durango Kid film features Bronson Cave as a location. This cave located in Bronson Canyon in the Hollywood Hills is a ubiquitous landmark in Hollywood films.

It was Batman’s Cave, and appears in such varied films as the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” to TV’s “Gunsmoke” and “Fantasy Island” to cult classic “Teenage Love Dolls” to last year’s Korean monster epic “Dragon Wars”. You should visit it.

Here it’s the entrance to a mine where silver is being hidden (and somehow smelted as well) before being transfered via underground tunnel to the cellar of the Lazy Zee Ranch.

If that sounds complicated (and not completely thought through) check out this plot: Bob Gill is working for a gang of silver smugglers, but he’s double-crossed them and has some illegal silver certificates hidden in a hatbox which he’s delivering to his dying mother Angel, only Angel’s not his dying mother, she’s not even sick, she’s wearing a wig and lying in the bed of Betty Long’s ranch who thinks she is her aunt. Angel is in cahoots with the local US Attorney. They are, in turn, double-crossing the gang, who have killed Bill Gill. Jim Gill, Bill’s brother, shows up looking for him.

When San Francisco’s “ace investigator” Steve Allen arrives in San Feliz, things don’t exactly get less complicated, seeing as how he’s got a secret identity as the Durango Kid.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Smiley is a cook on the ranch, and, since there is a dark cellar, he’s afraids of spooks. He doesn’t know Steve and doesn’t get to know him.

Durango does some roof-climbing in this, and swings from a rope. He gets knocked from a horse, and Tex Harding helps him up, but doesn’t discover his identity this time (see “Outlaws of the Rockies” blog entry.)

There’s a neat sequence where Durango is playing hide-and-seek with some bad guys out among some big rocks. He’s going all Rambo and picking them off one-by-one. This sequence is so neat they reuse the footage three years later in “Snake River Desperadoes.”

We learned in “Blazing Across the Pecos” that “Durango friend to all Indians.” Well, apparently, he’s also friend to all Federales. The Mexican police save the day at the end and Durango speaks Spanish to them, and they return the greeting, calling him “Durango.”

Viva Durango!

Of note, this was Tex Harding’s final film. He retired from film at 30 and finished his career as a meat cutter in a supermarket in Spokane County, Washington State.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures