The Dawn Rider (1935)
Gallop Thru this 30s Remake
For those who think remakes are a modern scourge on the world of movie making trust me they're not, back in the 1930s remakes were going on and like now sometimes remakes were no better than the originals. John Wayne's "The Dawn Rider" or "Cold Vengeance" as the DVD is known happens to be a remake and rather strangely a remake of "Galloping Thru" which was only made 4 years earlier. And whilst I've never seen "Galloping Thru" I feel quite confident in saying that "The Dawn Rider" can't be much of an improvement or any because it is one of the worst b-movie westerns I have watched. Short on drama, action and story it relies on John Wayne to try and make it work and sadly the young Wayne doesn't.
Having recently returned to town to see his dad, John Mason (John Wayne - Blue Steel) quickly makes friends with Ben (Reed Howes) who works for John's dad. And it is Ben who helps saves John's life when John is shot having given chase to a group of robbers who killed his father. But matters between John and Ben become complicated by Alice (Marion Burns) who helps nurse John back to health after he is shot and as Ben is sweet on Alice he becomes jealous of his new friend. So jealous that he removes the bullets from John's gun even though he knows that he is off to fight the man who killed his father, a man who also happens to be Alice's brother.
The ironic thing about "The Dawn Rider" is that I do like the idea it's simple but the basis for something with depth. The elements of this the jealousy, the romance and the revenge have been done better elsewhere but the web of trouble which is spun could have made for a much greater movie. But unfortunately what you get is a very typical and very compartmentalized story which considering "The Dawn Rider" only lasts 51 minutes also features a lot of padding. In many ways it is what you expect from one of these 30s mass produced westerns, a movie which whilst having an interesting idea ends up being about action, a hero and getting the girl.
Because "The Dawn Rider" ends up such a routine movie it becomes a case of waiting for certain events to happen. You wait for the opening brawl which ends up with John and Ben being best mates and having a drink. You then wait for the first dastardly deed so that John can go looking for revenge and then it is a wait for the big action climax with the hope that a couple of action scenes will sneak in somewhere along the lines. And whilst there is a relatively entertaining chase scene with plenty of action and some fancy horse mounting the rest of the action is a disappointment.
And sadly the acting is also a disappointment with a lot expected of John Wayne to make it work. Now I enjoy watching young John Wayne as his performances were often free from all those traits which would become his persona later on in his career but here he seems to be on autopilot as John Mason, coasting through the movie doing the minimum and firing off a youthful smile once in a while. And sadly Wayne is the best thing when it comes to the performances with Marion Burns, Dennis Moore, Reed Howes and even Yakima Canutt being disappointing.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "The Dawn Rider" has one of the more entertaining storylines I have seen in these 30s b-movie westerns it ends up one of the most disappointing movies. Not only does it fail to make the story work but everything about it from the acting through to the action ends up dull.
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