Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Man from Utah (1934)

This is the sixth of the 'Poverty Row' westerns that John Wayne made in the lean years of the 30s, before Stagecoach launched him to stardom.  It begins with a musical number that's a relic of Wayne's ill-fated attempt to be a Singing Cowboy.  I've never really 'got' the whole Singing Cowboy thing, and given Wayne's inability to lip-sync, neither did he!

The plot of this one is pretty typical (so typical, in fact, it would be re-used in at least three other films).  Wayne plays a stranger who stumbles into a bank robbery.  He lends his expert marksmanship to the marshall's effort to thwart the crooks.  I found this a very amusing scene, with Wayne making no pretence of aiming, and instead just wafting his gun in the general direction of 'off screen'.

The marshall, impressed by this stranger's shooting skills, asks him to work undercover at a crooked rodeo.  It seems the men running the rodeos have an uncanny habit of winning them all, with 'accidents' befalling anyone else who might be a challenger.  Since there wouldn't be much of a movie otherwise, Wayne takes the job.

This leads to the usual horse-ridin', pistol shootin', fist fightin', woman wooin' shenanigans.  Wayne has two prospective love interests in this film: a good girl and a bad girl.  No prizes for guessing which one he ends up with.

The film is as slight as it sounds: it clocks in at a scant 52 minutes, and that's after being padded by the musical number, a considerable amount of stock footage of a real rodeo, and a 'fight' scene that occurs in such darkness you can't actually see any of the participants.  Safely skippable unless you have a real passion for cheapo westerns.

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