Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Overlooked Movies -- The Lawless Frontier

I have this movie on a compilation DVD. The quality is, to say the least, poor. The movie's not much better. The frontier of the title is an interesting place, though. One minute you can be in trees beside a wide river, and the next you can be in the middle of a trackless desert.

John Wayne plays a guy who comes home to find that his parents have been murdered by an outlaw called Zandri (Earl Dwire) and his gang, who steal all their cattle. It's a lot of cattle, and how one old man and woman could have taken care of them isn't explained. For that matter how Wayne knows that Zandri is responsible isn't explained, either. Nor is what Zandri does with the cattle. We're told that Zandri is half Apache but that he pretends to be Mexican and speaks the language like a native. That's the first big laugh of the movie as soon as you hear him talk.

Gabby Hayes plays a rancher with a beautiful daughter, Ruby (Sheila Terry). Zandri plans to kill Gabby and kidnap Ruby, but she overhears his fiendish plan. She and Gabby escape and meet up with Wayne, who decides to get Zandri.

But enough about the plot, such as it is. What about the good stuff? Well, there's a secret tunnel, which is always good to have. There are some good stunts (Yakima Canutt is on hand), including Wayne does himself when he rides a log down a long aqueduct. Or something. And the bad stuff? The dumbest sheriff in movie history. A stunt with a horse that involves a tripwire. I wouldn't have thought twice about this as a kid, but it was terrible to see this time.
[SPOILER ALERT]
The best part of the movie involves Gabby, who's felled by knife thrown by Zandri. Gabby collapses with the knife buried in his back. Wayne finds him and knows he's dead. But he's not. Imagine the surprise of the audience when Gabby shows up later on. Wayne asks him about the knife. "Just a scratch," Gabby says.
[END OF SPOILER ALERT]
There are some more amazing things, but I don't think I'll write about them. The Lawless Frontier was never intended to be a good movie, just a disposable item for the bottom of the bill. If you're desperate for some western action or to see John Wayne as he starts to build the screen persona that served him so well, it's worth a look. You can watch it on your computer. Otherwise, skip it.

9 comments:

Todd Mason said...

Ah. Gotcha.
Well, there, Young Buck, it barely lodged in me...I just needed me a nap, is all.

"Don't you worry, Hahm-bree, I'll git you yit!"

A flume, perhaps?

Bill Crider said...

Possibly a flume, though where it came from is a mystery.

Todd Mason said...

Well...it's the best means of transport from river to trackless desert, after all...except they don't work so well in flatlands...a Very Slow Flume....

pattinase (abbott) said...

I guess I won't put this one on LOCATE TV then.

James Reasoner said...

Some of the Duke's movies from this era are so goofy that they're actually pretty good. RIDERS OF DESTINY comes to mind (I think that's the one where Gabby plays a character called Matt the Mute). THE LAWLESS FRONTIER was written and directed by Robert N. Bradbury, who was Bob Steele's father in real life, and Bradbury's movies often have a sort of lunatic tinge about them. You definitely have to be in the right mood for them, though.

Anonymous said...

As far as I'm concerned you can't go totally wrong if Gsbby is in it. I'm pretty sure I saw this one about 30 years ago.

Jeff

Bill Crider said...

This one definitely has that lunatic tinge, James. It's a hoot. And Gabby is great, Jeff.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Another one I missed. I don't think I have seen any of his movies from his early years come to think of it.

Todd Mason said...

STAGECOACH would be the obvious one.