“West of Sonora”

June 2, 2008

Courtesy of Les Adams

“In the early days west of Sonora, yada yada gold yada yada blood ran in the river yada yada it was a man’s world. A woman was a creature seldom seen. In some remote mining towns, Old-timers like these had almost forgotten what a woman looks like. Then one day was heard an amazing report. A woman was coming to Seco City. Yes, the news had been verified. She was a passenger on the weekly stage from Stockon. Her name was Penelope.”

Pan past the other passengers to reveal…a six year old girl.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

This one is all about family. Anyone who has ever worked on a film set, especially a long shoot, or a long-running series, knows that after a while the cast and crew become some twisted form of an extended family. I imagine that things were like that with the Durango Kid series. A lot of the same cast and crew seem to pop up film after film. These people were working long hours on a low budget. And, as the years passed, the hours got longer and the budget lower.

If 1948’s “West of Sonora” is any insight into this faux family, then things were mighty twisted indeed.

Penelope is an orphan caught in the middle of the Murphy / Clinton feud. Grandpa Black Murphy is an outlaw with a hook for a hand. Grandpa Jeff Murphy is the town sheriff. They take turns kidnapping her from one another.

Steve Rollins is a lawman who has come to help sort out the mess.

Nice bit where the two sides are about to open fire on one another, and Durango rides between them carrying Penny.

Someone tries to kill Murphy. Then tries to kill Clinton. It turns out to be the sheriff’s creepy accordion playing brother, Sandy. Having tried his hand at fratricide, the creep decides to kill Penny too.

Steve’s advice to Black Murphy and Sheriff Clinton: “You two better hang together, or you can die alone!”

Real tense moment as the brother is riding to kill the helpless little girl. The Sheriff learns the truth and he is riding with a posse to save her….

Cut to: Smiley doing a little song and dance dressed as an indian. This doesn’t heighten the tension as one might hope, it just lets all the air out of the balloon. And it goes on forever.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Durango saves the day. Tying things up in a neat package, Little Penny gives Steve her doll, Miss Caulkins, to keep him company. Now, as Steve rides off towards Texas, he has some family too.

Courtesy of Les Adams

Smiley dresses in drag, something I could have happily died without ever seeing. The Sunshine Boys play, and one of their members dresses as a woman as well.

Must have been one weird shoot…