“West of Cheyenne”

July 22, 2008

Courtesy of Les Adams

This 1938 film has an odd way of moving. It sort of jerks along, doubles back on itself, and then inches forward. Basically, before anything happens, the characters discuss doing it. Then they do it. Then they discuss what just happened. Repeat. If this sounds unsatisfying, it is. Add to this the fact that good guys are often listening on on bad guys’ plans, and bad guys are often listening in on good guys’ plans. This way, we get to overhear a plan, then hear it again when it is repeated to the gang, then see it, then hear all about it.

The end result is that out of 54 minutes we end up with about 10 minutes of story.

That story is this: Brad (don’t call him Steve) Buckner and his posse have just bought the Bar W Ranch. The previous two owners were “mysteriously killed” by the gang of rustlers who are hiding their stolen herd on the land. Dick Curtis and his bunch try repeatedly to kill Brad.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

There’s lots of goofing around over at the Bar W. Plenty of singing about food, chasing each other this way and that way, and giggling like retarded children. If these sequences are supposed to serve the narrative function of painting the way of life of these cowboys as worth protecting, it backfires. Especially when they attempt to hang a character named Shorty just so they can keep on playing grab ass around the dining table. Shoot em all, Dick, shoot em all.

Courtesy of Les Adams

There’s a crazy continuity problem. The gang is having dinner with the gal at the ranch when there is an attempt on their lives. They decide they better ride with the gal to town. “While we’re there, we’ll sign those papers.” And they ride off. When they arrive in town, the gal is there waiting for them and says “Good morning!”

Charles has a couple of pretty passionate love scenes in this — two long kisses and they get married in the end. In her 18 films with Charles, Iris Meredith played the gamut of love interest roles. She’s the passionate love interest in this film and “Western Caravans.” She’s the gal who’s around at the end for Charles to wave goodbye to (“Texas Stagecoach” for one). And she’s the gal who gets pawned off on his friend (in most of them.)

Charley fans his gun just like in 1937’s “Outlaws of the Prairie”. At some point, he stopped doing this.

In another similarity with “Outlaws of the Prairie”, the film ends with Charley going mano-a-mano with the bad guy. This also stopped happening.

Oh, almost forgot. Charley sings in this one! “Happy Birthday to you…”

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures