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CONFLICT (director: David Howard; screenwriters: from the novel The Abysmal Brute by Jack London/Charles Logue; cinematographer: A.J. Stout; editors: Erma Horsley/Jack Ogilvie; music: Howard Jackson/George Parrish; cast: John Wayne (Pat Glendon), Jean Rogers (Maude Sangster), Ward Bond (Gus ‘Knockout’ Carrigan), Tommy Bupp (Tommy), Bryant Washburn (City Editor), Frank Sheridan (Sam Steubner), Harry Woods (‘Ruffhouse’ Kelly), Margaret Mann (Ma Blake), Eddie Borden (‘Spider’ Welsh), Frank Hagney (Mike Malone), Lloyd Ingraham (Mr. Adams), Bruce Mitchell (Mr. Dennis); Runtime: 60; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Trem Carr; Universal Pictures; 1936)
“Not particularly interesting.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A rarely seen early John Wayne non-western from universal that is not particularly interesting and has an old-fashioned rube quality to it even for back then. Western B-film director David Howard (“Triple Justice”/”In Old Santa Fe”) clumsily directs one awkward scene after another until awkward looks like the norm. It’s based on the Jack London novel The Abysmal Brute, which was filmed before as a silent under that title starring Reginald Denny in 1923.

Wayne plays former lumberjack Pat Glendon, a bare-knuckle boxer at the turn-of-the-20th century, who is part of a New York-based crooked cross-country traveling boxing scheme run by Gus ‘Knockout’ Carrigan (Ward Bond) and his gang. The crew sends Pat under a different name ahead in the town they will put on their next exhibition fight and he builds up confidence for the locals to wager on him against Carrigan. When they fight, Pat takes a dive.

The next fight is in the West Coast lumber city called Cedar City, where Pat uses his real name and hires out as a lumberjack in the Adams camp. The rival Dennis lumber camp puts up the brutish ‘Ruffhouse’ Kelly (Harry Woods) to fight Carrigan, but Pat knocks him out during a lumberjack picnic and everyone agrees he’s the local to fight Carrigan.

Pretty Maude Sangster (Jean Rogers) is really an investigative reporter send by her San Francisco editor to expose the fixed fights, as she poses as a social worker. Tommy (Tommy Bupp) is an adolescent orphan who runs away from the orphanage only to be saved from drowning in the river by Pat. The feisty kid attaches himself to Pat and becomes his boxing trainer, and Pat is so charmed by the kid he unofficially adopts him.

On the day of the big fight, Pat’s conscience bothers him and he tells Carrigan he’s going to fight him for real–the lumberjacks are his real friends and he doesn’t want to lose their hard-earned money. I bet if you think real hard you can guess who’ll win both the fight and the girl.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”