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The Big Stampede / Ride Him, Cowboy / Haunted Gold
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Big Stampede, The/Ride Him, Cowboy/Haunted Gold (DVD) (3FE) (Multi-Title)
Twenty-five-year-old John Wayne saddles up in three of six early 1930s shoot-'em-ups made for Warner Bros. and previously filmed with silent-screen cowboy Ken Maynard. The Big Stampede pits Wayne against a cattle baron (Noah Beery) heaping a load of misery on new ranchers. Haunted Gold unravels the mystery of an abandoned gold mine lying beneath a ghost town. Ride Him, Cowboy finds drifter Wayne rescuing a spirited horse, tracking a notorious killer called The Hawk...and falling under suspicion of being the infamous outlaw. Billed with Wayne in each of the three films is the white stallion Duke (chosen to match Maynard's horse in intercut footage from the earlier films). Ride him, John!]]>
John Wayne's road to stardom needed some giddyup in the early 1930s; after a leading-man turn in The Big Trail, he quickly fell into B-movie obscurity. While waiting to vault to first-tier status in 1939's Stagecoach, he honed his talent with a set of six B-Westerns at Warner Brothers, shot in 1932-33. The series allowed Warners to recycle footage (and plots) from a string of silent Westerns made with Ken Maynard, with the young Mr. Wayne stepping into Maynard's saddle. These snappy little films (under an hour each) are contained on two Warners DVDs; this one has the first three pictures in the series. Ride Him, Cowboy is the best of the batch, a very entertaining number in which Wayne is introduced to a feisty horse named, of all things, Duke. Duke would feature in the later films, as would Wayne's harmonica playing. The movie has some wild stunt riding and some very amusing dialogue (someone urges a pokey storyteller, "Skip that part and get down to bedrock"). And for a cheap B-movie, there's some exceptionally inventive camerawork by Ted McCord, who would go on to shoot The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and East of Eden.
McCord also shot The Big Stampede, which doesn't have much drama but lives up to its title with a cattle-frenzy finale. Noah Beery Sr., plays the baddie, and Wayne's future Stagecoach co-star Berton Churchill plays Lew Wallace (the governor of New Mexico and the man who wrote Ben-Hur). Haunted Gold adds a dose of haunted-house shenanigans to an awkward tale about a hidden cache of gold. The comic relief comes from character actor Blue Washington, who unfortunately has the kind of wide-eyed, scaredy-cat role that too many black actors of the era got stuck with.
Wayne, 25 years old, plays the same naively heroic hero in each. He's lean and handsome and not yet grown into his talent. But you can see how much the camera likes him--as his future director Howard Hawks might have put it--and how much that famous stride is already coming into step. --Robert Horton
- Includes: The Big Stampede, Ride Him Cowboy, Haunted Gold
- B&W, 1.33
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Top Customer Reviews
I bought this expecting the same. But to my surpise, this release by a major studio like Warner blows all the other early to mid 30's John Wayne westerns to bits.
The picture quality is superb. Clarity of detail is exceptional. Warner Bros should be commended for having well preserved copies in their vaults. I plan to get the other John Wayne installment from Warner Bors too. And three features in one DVD is outstanding.
Paramount did an earlier relaese of a Tim McCoy feature with John Wayne. Like the Warner release, the picture and sound quality was very very good. But it consisted of only one feature and cost more than this Warner triple feature. I hope Universal would also release their Buck Jones westerns soon, even if many of these are already in the public domain. A good quality B western would sell anytime
I certainly would not rank any of these three films among John Wayne's top twenty, or even top fifty films. They are competently made "oat burners," in the style of a Hopalong Cassidy, Buck Jones, Gene Autrey, and other beloved western stars of the era. The films are entertaining, yet uncomlicated. The distinctions between good and evil are clear.
It is amusing to see that John Wayne's beautiful white horse is named, "Duke." One may only speculate how many jokes were tossed around about that off-camera.
Again, if one if attempting to attain a complete John Wayne film collection, they should add this DVD to their library. It certainly is not "Rio Bravo," or "The Searchers," but it beats the heck out of a lot of morally ambiguous garbage on TV today.
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