Saturday, November 30, 2013

West of the Badlands

This film does not begin with the actual movie but rather an introduction to it by Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, and their son Roy, Jr.  It lasts a few minutes and then West of the Badlands begins.  I was confused at first, thinking maybe I was watching a TV show instead, but then the hosts of Happy Trails Theatre announced the start of the film.

The 64-minute black-and-white movie starts with a text explanation that sets the story in 1875’s Idaho Territory.  I thought that odd because I do not associate badlands with Idaho.  But when I went to IMDb to find out more about West of the Badlands, and couldn’t find a reference to the movie, further digging revealed that an alternate title for this film is The Border Legion.  And that makes a lot more sense as that is the name of the outlaw gang which plays a big role in the movie.

Roy Rogers plays a doctor, Steve Kells, aka Steve Kellog, who is running from the law for some reason not explained until partway through West of the Badlands.  Gabby Hayes plays sidekick Honest John Whitaker; clearly, there are some possible connections to ASJ here!  Carol Hughes is Alice, Steve’s fiancĂ©e, and Joseph Sawyer is Jim Gulden, leader of the outlaw gang.  Maude Eburne is Hurricane Hattie McGuire, owner of a saloon in Miles City, but she has little in common with Blanche Graham from Journey from San Juan.

But a connection to that episode appears soon after: Steve shows up in need of a job and says, “I can play a guitar a little but not enough to be hired for it.”  Well, he can certainly sing and play a whole lot better than Michele Monet!  And the customers in the saloon in West of the Badlands seemed to appreciate him a lot more, too.  Later, in the outlaw hideout (a cabin somewhere), Steve sings Git Along Little Dogies; the line about "Wyoming will be your new home" struck me as ironic!  It was, however, pretty funny to see all the outlaws participating in a sing-a-long; I really can’t picture the Devil’s Hole Gang doing that.

While the quality of the DVD is not the best, and it is obvious that the actors are lip-syncing when singing, and obvious too when the actors are riding on a wagon or stagecoach that they are not, in fact, actually galloping along but rather the changing scenery behind them is a special effect and they are stationery, the actual plot of West of the Badlands was fun.  It involved Steve getting involved with capturing the gang of outlaws, Honest Joe trying—and eventually succeeding—in getting townsfolk interested in a mining operation, a couple love stories, and two lawmen on opposite sides when it came to apprehending Steve.  I don’t recall ever seeing a Roy Rogers movie before but based on this one, I will certainly seek out more.

The DVD of West of the Badlands included two long bonus features that are well worth viewing.  The first, lasting about half an hour, is called Roy Rogers & Dale Evans Biography and includes lots of anecdotes and stories by them and their children plus scenes from many of their Hollywood movies as well as what seem to be home movies.  The second bonus feature is called Sidekicks Feature and over the course of twenty minutes discusses and shows scenes with six supporting actors who played sidekicks to Roy Rogers in his movies, including Andy Devine (Sheriff Bintell in The Men That Corrupted Hadleyburg), who played sidekick Cookie Bullfincher in nine of his movies.

The last bonus feature was only a few minutes long and consisted of a video tour of the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum, and included shots of Trigger and other animals on display (though I recall some controversy about the horse a few years ago).  A link below has information about the closing of the museum, which happened in 2009.

Information about the now-closed Roy Rogers & Dale Evans Museum: