July 15, 2010
In Mesa Verde, the dam is complete and the whole valley is celebrating. Which means the Sons Of The Pioneers are playing. We get two numbers while they collect money for the dance and two more at the dance itself — fours songs total in the first fifteen minutes. This film likes it’s S.O.P. loud and proud!
This film joins “West of the Santa Fe” and “The Colorado Trail” as a recent release by Sinister Cinema. There are plenty of returning cast members — Dick Curtis, Hank Bell, Iris Meredith playing “Madge” in this and one other, and Edward LeSaint is always her dad.
Lots of big speeches at the big dance establish that Jeff Strong (Starrett) is a pillar of the community. It was his proposal to build the dam. He’s toasted and cheered by the whole town. Suddenly, a big explosion. Everybody runs outside.
Too late. Dick Curtis (as LOBO SAVAGE!!!) and his boys have robbed the bank. This being one of these films, we can’t just have an exciting bank robbery; the theft is actually funding a larger and less interesting plot.
The townsfolk have to round up their cattle to make a final payment or they lose the rights to the dam. As they do, we get song #5 from Bob Nolan and the boys.
Dick Curtis and his jerks block the pass so the cattle can’t get through. They’ve got a sign up reading “Private Property. No Trespassing. Lobo Savage.” They shoot Iris’ dad and she wants frontier justice. Jeff, of course, thinks there is a more boring way to solve this problem, like a loan extension or something.
Madge’s Plan: shoot it out with the gunmen and stampede the cattle through the pass.
Jeff’s Plan: send Hank to check the county records to verify legal ownership of the (yawn) pass and PART TWO: talk to Madge “and make her listen to reason.”
I like Madge’s Plan better. Sadly, the townfolk go with Jeff’s.
It takes some time for Hank to get back. And while we wait — Song #6!
The conclusion hinges on Jeff’s final gambit: a carefully executed plan involving some fancy riding, a Trojan horse-type ruse, a risky bluff and lots of stock footage of cattle.
Implausible as it sounds, it all adds up to a pretty thrilling ending. In fact, it’s one of the more exciting ones I’ve seen in any of Starrett’s westerns from this period. Lots of chases on horseback, lots of shooting — people die! — and two narrow escapes for our heroes.
Epilogue: Song #7 as the Madge and the Sons of the Pioneers ride up the pass. Jeff is waiting there and he has revised the sign.
How will they get through? Jeff says to Madge, “Only one way you can get past here. Marry me!”
Cue “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” and we clock 8 songs total in 53 minutes. What a ride.