Friday, June 18, 2021

Steel of Color

Not too long ago, I bought a Mill Creek box set of John Wayne movies. These are mostly B movies from his days on Poverty Row in between the failure of The Big Trail and his career boost in Stagecoach. Recently, I popped one of the DVDs into the DVD player and watched Blue Steel.

Wayne plays John Carruthers, who comes into a hotel in a small western town one night, and beds down in an alcove just off the lobby where nobody can see him. Following him in not too much later is the local sheriff, Jake Withers (Gabby Hayes, although he was not yet "Gabby" and just George Hayes). The sheriff has heard that the "Polka Dot Bandit" is around and might try to rob the safe, so the sheriff would like the room upstairs that has a knothole through which he can surreptitiously watch the lobby in the hopes of catching the Bandit.

Sure enough, the Bandit (Yakima Canutt, who obviously also handled stunts in the movie) shows up and commits the robbery, while the sheriff misses it. Carruthers, however, does see it and goes to look for evidence, at which point the sheriff comes out looking for the Bandit, and getting the understandable but mistaken notion that Carruthers is the Bandit.

In fact Carruthers is a US Marshal, also looking for the bandit. The Bandit, real name Dante, is working for a man named Malgrove (Edward Peil) who is one of the town's leading citizen. In fact, Malgrove wants to become the baron of the town. Apparently there's a rich seam of gold underneath the town, and Malgrove plans to drive off all the homesteaders by taking their money and provisions and having bandits rob any coach that tries to re-provision the town.

Dan Mason (Lafe McKee) operates the stagecoach, and has a lovely adult daughter Betty (Eleanor Hunt). Malgrove's men unfortunately kill Mr. Mason, but Carruthers figures out that Danti is the Polka Dot Bandit, and saves the day.

Blue Steel was a B movie from Poverty Row (IMDb says Monogram but the opening title says Lone Star), so don't expect a prestige picture here. Instead, with a brief running time of 54 minutes and change, anybody watching this knows they're getting a B movie with a simple story and characterizations. In that regard it succeeds just fine. Two dozen years later, this stuff would be fodder for one or another of the TV westerns. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Anybody who wants to see what B westerns were all about will enjoy Blue Steel.

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