Rare Western Double Feature: Canyon Hawks (1930) / Flying Lariats (1931)
Canyon Hawks (1930, B&W): Cattle rancher Jack Benson (Yakima Canutt) finds Mildred Manning and her young brother homesteading in a shack on his property while their sheep graze on his range. Instantly attracted to Mildred, he lets her stay and even deeds a section of land to her. This generosity puts Jack at odds with his fellow cattlemen, but the real danger comes from the outlaw raiders known as Canyon Hawks, led by sadistic Steve Knowles.
An ultra-rare early talkie distributed by motion-picture pioneer John Freuler's Big 4 Film Corporation, Canyon Hawks holds a special place in B-Western history as the only sound-era production that gives a starring role to legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt. The former rodeo rider had toplined numerous horse operas during the 1920s, but his oddly pitched voice reproduced poorly on early sound recordings and Yak was swiftly demoted to supporting roles (mostly playing heavies) and doubling for the young John Wayne, and other film stars.
Starring Yakima Canutt, Buzz Barton, Renee Borden, Robert Walker. Written and directed by Alvin J. Neitz.
Flying Lariats (1931, B&W): Wally Dunbar and his brother Sam try to determine how they can help their financially strapped neighbors, Pop Starr and his headstrong daughter Bonnie. The bashful Sam has a crush on Bonnie and persuades Wally to court her on his behalf. The ensuing romantic complications are forgotten when crooked cashier Tex Johnson cheats the bank out of $5000 and disappears with it. The Sheriff enlists Wally in his posse, forcing him to devote his attention to bringing in the thief.
Another seldom-seen Big 4 production from the early talkie era, Flying Lariats showcases the considerable skills of top-billed Wally Wales - who, in an earlier life under his real name, Floyd Alderson, was actually a working cowboy. Wales enjoyed a respectable starring career in cheap Westerns but is more highly regarded for his later work as a character actor, billed as Hal Taliaferro. This modest but amusing production is graced with a novel plot and a dollop of romantic comedy arising from a case of mistaken identity.
Starring Wally Wales, Fred Church, Sam Garrett, Bonnie Jean Gray. Written and directed by David Kirkland.
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Top Customer Reviews
CANYON HAWKS (1930) looks best, clear image with good contrast for a public domain transfer. And best of all, Yak Canutt, former silent Western star and future badguy/stuntman gets his only starring role in a sound B-Western. No plot summation here, that's not important. You just need to know that both Yak and the print offered look just fine. And for those who know little about Yak, let me just add that this famous stuntman went on to 2nd-unit directing such great scenes as the chariot race in BEN HUR and the action sequences in many top films such as WHERE EAGLES DARE. Here you get to see an early Yak as a handsome leading man in a no-budget Western gem. He does himself well.
FLYING LARIETS (1931) looks shoddier, though I have yet to see a better print. It is watchable and very enjoyable in spite of the uncomfortable acting of both Sam Garrett (roping champion) and Wally Wales who became much more relaxed and assured of himself just a few years later when he went through a name change and became badguy Hal Taliaferro and menaced the likes of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. One of my favorite Taliaferro roles is his henchman in the Roy Rogers film RIDING DOWN THE CANYON.
So what we have here is a pretty good Yak Canutt/Wally Wales double bill from the early 1930s. Both films are acceptable, CANYON HAWKS looking better, with less awkward performances, though FLYING LARIETS is the longer and more satisfying plotwise.
This is great historic B-Western stuff and should be seen by all Western movie fans if only to track the evolution of the genre. I love this stuff and recommend this dvd to all interested parties.