Thursday, August 26, 2010


Or Wal-Mart or K-Mart or the dollar store. You never know what you may find.

A week or two ago, I ran across a DVD of a 1940 Western titled When the Daltons Rode. I wasn’t immediately familiar with it, but:

1) It was in black-and-white
2) Its cast included Randolph Scott, Broderick Crawford, Brian Donlevy and Andy Devine.
3) It was only $3.99.

So I snatched it up, along with whatever the heck I actually stopped there to buy (dental floss, I think).

It was a great purchase—a well-photographed B-Western with some great stunt work. Crawford and Donlevy are two of the Dalton boys, driven into outlawry (at least according to this movie version) when a dishonest land developer tried to cheat them out of their ranch and framed Donlevy on trumped up murder charges. The two men, along with two additional brothers plus Andy Devine’s character, turn outlaw for real.

Devine’s character is comic relief—his usual role in Westerns. In fact, he joins the gang because he had ended up engaged to two different women and turning outlaw was pretty much his only way out of that situation. But the script is a good one and Devine is also a useful part of the gang, serving a believable purpose other than just being a walking punch line. In fact, it’s Devine who improvises a plan to allow the gang to escape one particular town after they get cornered by a posse.

Two particular scenes highlight the excellent stunt work. At one point, while being chased by a posse, the Dalton gang has to one-by-one climb off a moving stagecoach out onto the horses, where each of them cuts one of the horses free to ride away.

Later on, the gang robs a train and steals some horses from a corral car, jumping each horse off the train while it’s still moving. It’s a magnificent stunt, though one hopes no horses were hurt when they filmed it. In those days, there often was not enough care taken to make sure animals in movies weren’t injured.

Broderick Crawford really stands out as the head of the Dalton gang, the natural leader among the brothers. He starts out as a strong-willed but apparently good guy. Time on the outlaw trail brings out a ruthless side to him, but he still shows a flash of nobility just before the climatic shootout. Crawford plays the part to perfection—you find yourself liking him the whole time, even when he’s making obviously bad moral choices.

And all that for a mere $3.99 plus tax plus some dental floss. Remember, always check the movie bin at discount stores. There might very well be a minor treasure tucked away in there.


  1. Good counsel! I would add to rummage through the 2 for $11 bin at Wal-Mart, though my local store doesn't have that bin anymore. It's a shame because I used to unearth real treasures in there, especially those Great American Western DVD sets from Platinum (one volume even boasted Shatner's classic WHITE APACHE!). I also picked up a few Hopalong Cassidy DVDs that had four of the later films on them. Guest stars included both Supermen, Kirk Alyn and George Reeves, early Robert Mitchum and all the usual suspects of that era. Great fun for five and a half bucks.

  2. Yeah, the Wal-Mart bins are another great source movie treasures. I once found a set of old movie serials starring a very young John Wayne. Thanks for posting. I never knew Mitchum was in a Hoppy movie.


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