BLUE STEEL (director/writer: Robert Bradbury; screenwriter: story by Robert Bradbury; cinematographer: Archie Stout; editor: Carl Pierson; cast: John Wayne (John Carruthers), Eleanor Hunt (Betty Mason), George ‘Gabby’ Hayes (Sheriff Jake Withers), Edward Peil (Malgrove), Yakima Canutt (Danti, the Polka Dot Bandit), Lafe McKee (Dan Mason), George Cleveland (Hank); Runtime: 59; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paul Malvern; Monogram; 1934)
“A routine B Western.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A routine B Western directed by Robert Bradbury from one of his stories. This one is set in Yucca City, California. In a driving rain storm John Carruthers (Wayne), an undercover federal marshal sent by the governor in Sacramento to investigate complaints by homesteaders of a ruthless gang operating in their vicinity, sneaks into a hotel seeking shelter as the desk clerk Hank (George Cleveland) is snoozing. Old-timer Sheriff Jake (George Hayes, still not known as Gabby but certainly acts like the future Gabby) is after The Polka Dot Bandit and feels the bandit might appear since Hank is holding the town’s payroll of $4,000 in his safe. While everyone nods out, assured by Hank that no one knows the combination, the bandit Danti, aka the Polka Dot Bandit (Yakima Canutt), who watched through the window when Hank deposited the money in the safe was able to get the combination and rob the payroll. When Jake awakens he sees through the knothole Carruthers by the safe and then hurrying off, thereby thinking he’s the bandit. But the preoccupied Carruthers found a rowel from the boot of the bandit that got stuck in the wooden floor and keeps it for evidence. The next morning the sheriff searches Carruthers living quarters and is about to arrest him, when a lady in distress, Betty Mason (Eleanor Hunt), says a gang just murdered her father Dan Mason (Lafe McKee) and stole the food and supply provisions her general store owner father was bringing before ambushed. The two give chase and pick-off one of the gang, but the other two chase the old-timer and force him off a cliff and into the water. Carruthers saves him by diving off the cliff and bringing him to a shelter under the cliff. When the gang’s boss Malgrove (Edward Peil) makes them return to finish off the two intruders, if they’re still living, they can’t find them so assume they’re dead.
In town the villainous town leader Malgrove, who hides behind a polite exterior veneer, makes an offer to buy all the homesteaders out for peanuts, as they’re griping they can’t stay here with no provisions. There has been no provisions for a long time, as the gang robs the transporters on the trail. But Carruthers and an amazingly dry Jake, especially since he just fell in a creek, arrive in town and talk the homesteaders out of selling so fast. Betty is ushered out to Malgrove’s ranch, but is taken hostage when she overhears Malgrove tell his henchman Danti that the plan is to drive out all the homesteaders because there’s rich deposits of gold on their land unbeknownst to them.
Jake and Carruthers team up to nab the gang and save the town by the usual Monogram method for this series of fistfights and shootouts and, for this film, the dynamite blasting of a canyon pass. The film’s snazzy opening is outdistanced by the rest of the tale, which is mired in mediocrity.
REVIEWED ON 8/1/2005 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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