Saturday, 16 August 2014
The Star Packer (1934)
Here's a free tip for movie makers: if your film has a shadowy, unseen villain whose whole gimmick is that no-one knows who he is, you should perhaps have more than one character who might actually be him.
This tip comes 80 years too late for the makers of The Star Packer, but when it comes to free advice, you get what you pay for.
This is another of John Wayne's early cheapies (the second last in my collection). Wayne is a federal marshal sent to investigate the town where said shadowy villain is up to no good. Taking on the job of sheriff (the post having become abruptly available due to the villain's activities), he repeatedly thwarts the efforts of the criminal gang to do him in. He also finds time to save a young woman. Since he spends a good minute on screen with her, and there are no other females in the cast, you can safely assume she's the love interest, though as romances go it's even more perfunctory than most of those in these sort of films.
The secret of Wayne's success is his Native American sidekick (who is not, of course, played by a Native American. This is the 1930s, after all). He eventually determines the identity of the villain, which as noted will come as a surprise only if you slept through the first thirty minutes of the film. From there, we head into the inevitable finale of such movies: lots of guys galloping around on horses and shooting at each other.
I probably sound very dismissive of the film, and that's a little unfair of me. It's a solid enough release by the assembly line production standards of 1930s "poverty row" film makers. The cast all do their jobs adequately, and at 53 minutes the movie can't be accused of outstaying its welcome.
Still, ultimately there's nothing especially notable about it, and "pretty good for a poverty row western" still isn't actually good good. So you can safely skip it.