“Rough, Tough West”

August 14, 2008

Courtesy of Bruce Hickey

The third to last Durango Kid film. Charley is showing the miles.

Steve Holden rides into town, looking for his old friend Jack Mahoney. “You mean, Big Jack,” says the guy on the street. Steve knew him five years ago, “we rode in the same Ranger outfit down in Texas.”

Jack and Steve meet. “Drink, Steve?” “No, I still take my water straight.” “Same old Steve.” Wow, they are old friends. I’ve seen over 30 Durango Kid films and I didn’t know Steve doesn’t drink. Maybe Steve Randall, Steve Waring and Steve Langdon drink, just not Steve Holden. Now Durango, there’s a drinker!

This “Big Jack” moniker doesn’t quite work — Mahoney may be tall, tough and an extremely athletic guy, but I wouldn’t call him “big.” He tells the little crippled boy Buzz (Tommy Ivo again) “think big, act big and you are big.” So that explains that.

The title comes directly from a line of dialogue. Jack, full of his big self and his big plans, talks about how this country “is rough and tough and needs strong men.”

When Steve becomes Marshall he discovers that Big Jack is a Big Jerk. He’s taxing miners, shaking down the old lady who runs the local newspaper and robbing a gold shipment. So Durango shows up to do things that Steve could have just as easily done himself.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Crippled little Buzz says: “The Durango Kid always shows up when folks are in trouble and need help.” There’s talk of an operation back East that can fix little Buzz “good as new.” If he ever gets it, that would be two such operations that Tommy Ivo has had in these films.

Smiley is the Chief of the fire crew. He doesn’t know Steve. ‘Nuff said.

Carolina Cotton is still tiny, still sings great and gets to play a large-ish part in this as Jack’s fiance.

Fred Sears shows up for one last turn in an uncredited cameo as the Doctor who treats little Buzz after his life-threatening fall from a horse. This regular villain and sometime-Director of these films has one last line: “His chances are 50/50.”

There are a few new things in this film: a suicide attempt, Steve in a bowler hat, and Smiley performing bits that are only mildly annoying.

There’s a cool firefight at the end when the bad guys set the town on fire to escape. Steve battles on through the blaze.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Ensuing non-hilarity with fireman Smiley and bucket full of holes.

Jack redeems himself by going into a burning building to rescue Buzz, but it’s Steve that ultimately pulls them both out.

Nice little epitaph with the survivors watching the inferno of the town burning and Granny saying some big words about how the West will be won.

Charley just watches. He’s already gone, man.

Courtesy of Bruce Hickey