Tuesday, September 1, 2009

O Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie... Please!

This is a great-looking movie poster. It’s the type that makes me want to see the film. But now that I’ve seen the movie, I’m thinking I was better off with the poster. It’s not a bad film, really. It’s just less than I expected from Johnny Mack Brown, and therefore a disappointment.

It starts off OK. It’s 1870, and there’s a gold rush… somewhere. Three frustrated prospectors see three of their luckier fellows strike gold, and decide to jump the claim. One of the “lucky” guys lives just long enough to reach Johnny and tell him the news. It seems one of the already-dead prospectors was Johnny’s brother. It's five minutes into the film and things are looking up. Johnny swears revenge! And then… proceeds to fool around for the next 55 minutes without doing much about it.

Actually, most of the fooling around is done by Fuzzy Knight (not to be confused with Fuzzy St. John), who provides comedy relief—enough comedy relief for at least six movies. This might have been okay if he were JMB’s sidekick. But he ain’t, and the two are rarely even on screen together. Seemed to me Fuzzy had more screen time than JMB. Heck, even the bad guys had more to do than Johnny.

The best scene takes place around the campfire, where Jimmy Wakely his Rough Riders (who serve no other purpose in the film) deliver some fine harmonies on the title tune. Then Fuzzy, a would-be bear hunter, picks up a squeeze box and sings a ditty called “The Bear Gave Me the Bird,” which certainly sounds like the same kind of bird we might give someone today. Was that expression in use in the Old West?

JMB is seen occasionally, smiling at everyone and being smiled at, until we reach the second best scene, a brief bust-up with two of the bad guys. Johnny seems to know they killed his brother, but still does nothing about it. Eventually, because time is running out in the movie, he chases them down, flings himself from his speeding Palomino and gets both their heads in armlocks. Then, instead of whupping holy hell out of them, he turns them meekly over to the sheriff. That’s it, except for a Looney Tunes finish with Fuzzy mugging in blackface.

Yikes! I gotta run plug my disc of bargain-basement Buster Crabbe Billy-the-Kids back into the DVD player.


Cullen Gallagher said...

Great title and great poster - you're right. I much prefer posters that do more than just reproduce photographs of the actor's faces. I like the ones with actual paintings, that try and capture the characters, story, and mood of the film. Newer ones don't seem to do that anymore.

I've also yet to see a JMB movie, but I've heard a lot about him. Any suggestions on where to start?

Evan Lewis said...

I'll let you know, Cullen. There are three other flicks on the Bury Me Not disc, and I have an unwatched serial, "Fighting With Kit Carson."

Cap'n Bob said...

Any truth to the nasty rumor that JMB and Clark Gable were more than just friends?