Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Spoilers of the Plains

When I was a kid (and yes, I realize how many of my posts start out that way), Roy Rogers movies were on TV all the time, and I was a faithful viewer. As an adult I've seen nearly all of Roy's movies again, and I still like them. Yes, they're often silly and over-the-top, but I can't help it. They put a big grin on my face.


SPOILERS OF THE PLAINS is an odd one, even for a Roy Rogers movie, none of which were ever grounded much in reality to start with. This one's more realistic than some, as Roy plays a troubleshooter for an oil company. It starts out with him and the Riders of the Purple Sage (no Sons of the Pioneers this time around) fighting a fire on horseback. Bet you didn't know they made asbestos suits for horses, did you? Well, I did, because I've seen this movie. From there the plot becomes a hardboiled espionage yarn with Roy battling foreign spies. (And since the movie was released in 1951, it's a given those spies are Commies.) The script by Sloan Nibley (who was married to gorgeous serial star Linda Stirling) is pretty tough stuff, and the direction by action expert William Witney is even tougher. No fancy shirts and not much singing in this one, and since Dale isn't in the movie, either, none of that mushy stuff. Plenty of chase scenes and brutal fistfights, though, including a classic to end the movie.


For the most part, Roy Rogers movies fall into two separate and distinct eras. The early films directed by Joseph Kane are big and splashy, with fancy outfits, lots of production numbers, and fairly thin plots. In the late Forties and Fifties, when William Witney was directing the films, they become steadily leaner, more realistic, and more hardboiled. All of them from this era hold up well and are certainly worth watching. SPOILERS OF THE PLAINS is maybe the best of them. I remembered watching it as a kid, and when I saw it again years later I still liked it a lot. If you've never seen a Roy Rogers movie, it might not be the best place to start, but if you think they're all singing, dancing, and yodeling, you really should give it or one of the other Witney-directed pictures a try.

4 comments:

Todd Mason said...

The notion of Rogers as the two-fisted man of the range doesn't comport too much with my stereotype of him, no! But I've mostly experienced his tv and radio work, and not a whole lot of that...I like the sudden image of him showing, say, Robert Mitchum what-for...

pattinase (abbott) said...

I always liked Roy and Dale, much like I liked Ozzie and Harriet. They even kind of look alike. But like Todd, this is a new Roy for me.

Cap'n Bob said...

I just jumped over to Amazon to buy the $1.39 copy. While there I looked at what others were charging. One clown wanted $49.99. Makes you wonder who he's trying to fool. Anyway, thanks for the recommendation, James. I prefer Roy's movies with less singing and more action, although I do like the singing most times.

Elisabeth said...

Joseph Kane wasn't responsible for most of those musical-extravaganza-type films of the mid-40s. He directed Roy from the late '30s until about '44, and in my opinion those were the best of the bunch (although I like some of the Witneys too). They had good plots and some of the highest-quality Sons of the Pioneers musical numbers. John English and Frank McDonald directed the flashy wartime films, probably the weakest of the lineup.