Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Overlooked Films: The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1958)

I’m sorry I said unkind things about last week’s Overlooked Film, The Lone Ranger (1956) (that's HERE). I meant those things, of course, but I still regret having to say them. In case you missed that diatribe, my main complaint was that the film was one western movie cliché piled on top of another, reflecting badly on everyone's favorite Ranger, Clayton Moore.

So I was not looking forward to the sequel, The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold. But I should have been. This one was fun, inventive, original and cliché-free, avoiding all the mistakes of its predecessor.

How? Here’s the secret: This movie is not really a western. It’s an adventure film with a western setting. The story would have played out just as well with Tarzan, Robin Hood or a noble pirate in the hero's seat.

The basic plot is this: A conniving widow is searching for a lost city. Her late husband spent his whole life searching and gathering evidence, but fell just short of finding it. Determined to cash in at last, the widow teams up with a killer and his gang of toughs. A map to the lost city was inscribed on a silver plate, which has since been broken into five medallions. The widow and the killer are hunting and killing the folks who have those medallions.

In this case, the lost city is one of the seven cities of Cibola, and the map/plate was made by Coronado’s men. The guys who now have the medallions are Indians. And the whole evil scheme would no doubt go off without a hitch if not for . . . not Tarzan, not Robin Hood, not Douglas Fairbanks Sr., but . . . The Lone Ranger (and Tonto).

Last time, I whined about Moore’s cheesy portrayal of the old prospector. This time, the prospector is absent, and the Ranger goes undercover as Bret Reagan, a Southern gentleman bounty hunter. Last time, Tonto suffered the ultimate snot-beating. This time, he takes only a couple of punches, and is later creased by a bullet. This film even sidesteps the Who-Was-That-Masked-Man schtick.

The Ranger's new, improved disguise.

A minor quibble: Early in the film we meet the town doctor, who, though dressed in city duds, is clearly an Indian. He looks even more like an Indian than the guys wearing war paint. But he’s been passing for years, and no one in the whole Indian-hating town suspects. Puh-lease.

Other that that, The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold is a fine film. Makes me wish Moore and Silverheels had made another.

Check out the new theme, interwoven with The William Tell Overture throughout the film:

Tonto is rescued (after two punches) by the doctor. 

LR displays his calling card.

Our hero scolds the natives for using a bad guy for target practice.

The sick chief reveals who has the medallions.

Tonto punches out the evil sheriff and gets off with a headache.

The widow's head killer, a weasel 'til the end.

The weasel's end.

More Overlooked Films at Sweet Freedom.

Next Week: The Lone Ranger Rides Some More


Cap'n Bob said...

Any idea where I can find this gem?

Stephen Mertz said...

I love both of these old feature LR films. You're right, Lost City of Gold is the better of the two, the first being strung-together cliche rather than plot...but to be down on "the old prospector" ... I love that old guy, especially when his "new fangled six-shooter" goes off "by mistake" and manages to shoot the gun out of a bad guy's hand. Looking forward to the new reboot, and I'm a big Depp man, but jeez, with the many Native American actors out there, did they really have to give the Tonto role to a white guy? Maybe Johnny will play Charlie Chan next, or Shaft.

Directions for Cap'n Bob for locating these films:

1. Go to computer. Turn on. Go to Amazon. Order.


2. Go to nearest Wal-Mart. With the new film hype, these oldies are everywhere for $4.99.

3. Enjoy, mi amigo!

Evan Lewis said...

I admit, Steve, I did like the shooting "by mistake" scene.

This whole dang movie is on YouTube, Cap'n, right here:

Steve's instructions are better, though, unless (like me) you can get it from the library.

Albie The Good said...

Well Congressman Crockett: I must say I did disagree with you regarding the first feature [for me the incredible stunt-work on the hillside fight is worth everything you pay to get that movie] -- but I also agree with you about the sequel-- GREAT movie!

The "pulpy" central device [the old golden amulet with built-in treasure map] and the great themes about inhumanity and prejudice REALLY make this second feature something special. Also Clayton Moore hamming it up as the "southern colonel" type character is something evry western fan has to see to appreciaite.

Also... I hate to second guess Steve-O Mertz-- a great writer in the pulp tradition-- but you need to be careful about ordering this on Amazon... look for a DVD by an outfit called ROAN Group-- it's an excellent digitally remastered print with special features-- most of the others are bad prints from fly-by-night sharks!

In any case, LR is still the man! Even the Hollywood "re-makers" will never ruin the masked rider for me!