Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Overlooked Films: THE LONE RANGER (1956)

If you have fond memories of the old TV series (and who doesn’t?) you’ll find this more of the same - only  in vivid color, and with a much bigger budget.

That’s a good thing, as far as it goes. To see LR and Tonto thundering across the prairie in living color is pretty dang impressive. All the scenes and sets, in fact, are impressive compared to the back-lot and indoor/outdoor stuff we saw on the series. The music is better, too. (Oddly, there’s a scene early in the film where the theme music from Maverick is playing in the background.) And it does star Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheerls, the guys who for many of us are the only real Ranger and Tonto.

But seen through the lens of time, the movie shows its age. Moore’s Ranger was always ultra-kid-friendly and generous with his big Pepsodent smile. In this film he smiles a lot, sometimes just at the camera, and the sweetness and light is almost overpowering. His depiction of the crotchety old prospector, amusing in small doses on TV, is used one time too many here, and the gag becomes corny. And remember Bill Cosby’s routine about Tonto always being sent to town to get the snot beat out of him? This movie features the ultimate in snot-beating, as Tonto is kicked around by a mob long enough for Scout to race way out into the desert and bring the Ranger to the rescue. Amazingly, our Faithful Indian Companion is none the worse for wear.

There’s nothing original here. We have white guys disguised as Indians to stir up trouble, we have a rich landowner scheming to take over the whole territory, we have a wife newly arrived from the East who can’t get used to these Western ways, we have a noble old Indian chief in danger of being nosed out by a hotheaded young upstart (nicely played by Michael Ansara) and we have Silver dragging a half-conscious Ranger to a waterhole. It all builds to a nice but brief climax involving dynamite, Indian warriors, bad guys, lawmen and the cavalry, ending - as you might expect - with LR going mano a mano with the baddest of the bad guys.  And, of course, the obligatory “Who was that Masked Man?” finish.

I suppose I’m nitpicking. There’s really nothing wrong with this movie. It’s harmless entertainment, and I’m glad it was made. But compared to Hi-Yo Silver, the abbreviated version of the first Lone Ranger serial (that’s HERE), this one seems flat and artificial.

See the lobby cards from this movie HERE.

More Thrilling Overlooked Films of Yesteryear at SWEET FREEDOM.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I purchased a double feature DVD of this paired with The Lone Ranger & The City of Gold from TCM a week ago.

It arrived in the afternoon mail.

Great seeing this reviewed!

Can't wait to watch this tomorrow.