Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


WINNERS OF THE WEST (1940). 13 Chapter Universal Serial. Directed by Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor.

If this is one of the best chapter-plays put out by Universal, it is probably because Mssrs. Beebe and Taylor were at the helm. The actors are extremely well-cast as well. Dick Foran is perfect as Jeff Ramsey, who's been hired to build a railroad through Hellgate Pass in the Southwest Territory. King Carter (Harry Woods) doesn't want the railroad (for reasons that are never clearly delineated) and tricks the Indians into aiding his cause. Ramsey's boss Hartford has a daughter named Claire who, as enacted by Anne Nagel, is saucy, attractive and intelligent and as brave as any of the fellows. James Craig is Ramsey's handsome pal Jim Jackson, Tom Fadden is their older buddy Tex, and Charles Stevens is “injun” turncoat Snake Eye. The photography, action, and direction are all first-rate, as is the score, although at times it's a bit too sprightly. If there is any problem with the serial, it is that while it remains busy, it eventually becomes quite monotonous and even a bit boring. There simply isn't enough to the plot, the suspense is minimal, and there isn't any mystery whatsoever. Although we are introduced to a “bad girl” in the saloon owned by King Carter, she makes infrequent appearances, and never even meets Claire, let alone has a “cat fight” with her spunky counterpart, which might have been an eye-opener. Still, there are several memorable scenes in the serial, such as when a train rolls over an overturned wagon, and a great cliffhanger in which a boulder thrown from above demolishes a rope bridge. Western fans will probably rank this higher than other serial enthusiasts.
Verdict: Certainly worth a look for the cliffhanger fan. **1/2.

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