Loving B-Westerns is a kind of disease, and probably incurable. It’s not the worst malady in the world to suffer from, however — B-Westerns have a good deal of redeeming aesthetic value.
The acting in them is often indifferent, the plots are a messy combination of the formulaic and the preposterous, but they’re usually shot brilliantly in beautiful locations and feature extended episodes of superb horsemanship.
What this means is that B-Westerns yield up their treasures best in first-rate prints — although they’re usually available only in really terrible prints. Hence my praise for Olive Films, which is issuing a series of B-Westerns in excellent Blu-ray editions, which allow one to savor the virtuosity of the horsebackers, the cameramen and the directors who made these delightful genre pieces.
A case in point is the Olive Blu-ray edition of Overland Stage Raiders, a film that’s interesting on several counts. It’s from Republic’s Three Mesquiteers series, from the time, in the late 1930s, when John Wayne was playing one of the mesquiteers. It also features Louise Brooks in her last screen appearance as Wayne’s romantic interest. She’s fascinating as always, mainly for her reserve and distance. She doesn’t seem unhappy to be appearing in such a film — she just doesn’t seem to be all there.
Sadly, she never gets to ride a horse in Overland Stage Raiders, which is a modern-day Western about a bus-line and an airline competing for business in a remote Western region.
The mesquiteers do a lot of horseback riding, of course, protecting the good guys and rounding up the bad ones. Silly as the story is, the film is mesmerizing visually — simply thrilling to watch in the Blu-ray edition.
The Olive Blu-ray Westerns are overpriced, but if you suffer from the B-Western malady, you’ll pay up and like it.