The Durango Kid, in his black outfit and mask, looks cool and mysterious on movie posters, which may explain why he survived long enough to appear in 67 films.
In that list of 67 Durango Kid films, Blazing Across the Pecos falls smack-dab in the middle, at number 34. So I have to guess it’s somewhat representative of the series. The trouble is, everything about it screams cheap. TV cheap. If I didn’t know this movie was released in 1948, I’d have thought it was made for an old western TV series.
The sets are minimal. Most of the action takes place in the bad guy’s office, or the newspaper office, or the saloon. Or maybe in the street, where a bare minimum of extras are milling about. When an action scene is needed, like an attack on a wagon train or the rustling of cattle, we get a healthy dose of stock footage.
The shots are all close-ups or medium close-ups, just what you’d expect from TV, and must have looked really in-your-face on the big screen.
Steve, or Jim, or Barney, or whoever the hell the Kid is when he's not the Kid,
engages in some unfunny horseplay with Smiley.
Smiley Burnette is on hand, playing a character named "Smiley Burnette," who looks and acts just like Gene Autry's pal "Frog." Except that Frog is actually funny, and "Smiley" is just silly. Chief Thundercloud appears uncredited (probably at his own request) as Chief Bear Claw. Sheesh, how embarrassing. The only bright spot was a 30-second uncredited appearance by Jock Mahoney, who later became a series regular.
The feeling all this conveys is that everyone involved was resigned to making a silly and forgettable cheapie, and were just going through the motions. Hard to blame them, seeing they had already cranked out 33 of them, and had 33 more to go.
The Kid impresses Chief Bear Claw and his pals with his pidgin English,
though elsewhere they understand real English just fine.
So. Did I LIKE this film? Hm. While I didn’t especially dislike it, LIKE is too strong a word. I’m still mildly curious about Starrett’s first appearance in the role, made way back in 1940, but otherwise it’s hard to imagine devoting another 58 minutes of my life to The Durango Kid.
BELOW: Because the D.K. did not look particularly cool or mysterious on the poster for Blazing Across the Pecos, I'm sticking up this 3-sheet from an earlier film, in which he does. Shades of The Shadow, no?
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