Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Blue Steel Review

Blue Steel (AKA Stolen Goods, An Innocent Man) (1934)
Dir. Robert N. Bradbury
Starring: John Wayne, George “Gabby” Hayes, Yakima Canutt

John Wayne stars as an undercover marshal on the trail of the Polka Dot Bandit, who teams up with a sheriff (Hayes) also on the hunt for the same criminal. After the pair stumble upon a wagon train robbery, they learn of a plot to swindle some homesteaders out of their land.

People tend to ignore or discredit the Poverty Row westerns of the 1930s through the 1950s, which is somewhat unfortunate. Most of the films were quickly made to fill space on double features using the same casts or sets, and the goal was mainly to make something to fill some time rather than to make some piece of art. And now a lot of the poverty row films are relegated to some of the many public domain multi movie collections that are out there. But that doesn’t mean that some of the films aren’t good or without merit. While not all are good, some of them, like this film (or the Tex Ritter film Sing Cowboy Sing, also directed by Bradbury), are pretty enjoyable. This isn’t a film that strives to tell a great or epic story. It is a simple tale, about two good guys teaming up to take down a gang of bad guys. There isn’t a lot of depth to the characters or the story, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing. This is a case of a movie with a well told story, that doesn’t waste time with a lot of boring filler.

It’s a competently made movie, well-acted, with some well-constructed action scenes. At 54 minutes the movie moves by at a quick pace, and with that short of a runtime there isn’t any scenes that feel like filler added in to pad out the runtime. None of the actors do a bad job in the movie, but they really aren’t asked to do too much. Eleanor Hunt is probably the weakest link among the actors in the film, but all she is really asked to do is be held hostage and relay some information from the villians to the heroes.

Overall it’s a good little movie, and fun to watch. It is a ground breaking or revolutionary film in any way, but it’s a fun relic from the period before John Wayne became a huge star in Stagecoach. In terms of poverty row westerns you could do better and you could do a lot worse than this, and if you own any public domain western collection, there’s a pretty good chance that a copy of this film is included in it under one of its several titles.

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