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DESERT TRAIL, THE(director: Cullin Lewis; screenwriter: Lindsley Parsons/story br Mr. Parsons; cinematographer: Louis Clyde Stouman; editor: Carl Pierson; music: William Barber–added in 1985; cast: John Wayne (John Scott/John Jones), Mary Kornman (Anne), Paul Fix (Jim), Eddy Chandler (Kansas Charlie/Rev. Harry Smith), Carmen Laroux (Juanita LaRoux), Lafe McKee (Sheriff Barker), Al Ferguson (Pete), Henry Hall (Farnsworth-Rodeo Promoter); Runtime: 54; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paul Malvern; Monogram; 1935)
“Cheeky, easy-going routine B Western.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Cheeky, easy-going routine B Western, with the laconic John Wayne more talkative and edgier than usual. It’s clumsily directed by Cullin Lewis from a story by Lindsley Parsons, but Wayne’s comedy antics with rotund hustler sidekick Eddy Chandler work really fine giving the film a graceful charm. It gets its title through the obscure fact that the stagecoach bandits have a hideout at the desert trail. This is one of Wayne’s later cheapie films for Monogram, known as a “Lone Star” production.

Rodeo rider John Scott (John Wayne) is informed by his gambler sidekick Kansas Charlie (Eddy Chandler) that the crooked promoter of the Rattlesnake Gulch rodeo, Farnsworth, was not paying off the full share for their purse winnings. When John confronts him, he offers $250 instead of the $900 owed him. Scott takes his money by force, but as he leaves Pete (Al Ferguson) and Jim (Paul Fix) sneak in and rob the promoter and Jim kills him when he resists. When the sheriff enters the office of the crime scene, Pete is stil there and thinks fast to frame Scott and Kansas Charlie.

Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.

The odd pair of partners go to nearby Poker City, when they learn that robbery suspects Pete and Jim have gone there. Scott takes the alias of John Jones and Kansas becomes the Reverend Harry Smith. They befriend Jim’s nice orphan storeowner sister Anne (Mary Kornman), who falls for John. Stagecoach robberies take place as Pete blackmails Jim to go along or he’ll rat him out as the murderer. The sheriff (Lafe McKee), when told by Pete the strangers are wanted in the rodeo killing, arrests them–suspecting they also robbed the stage. They escape and go after Pete, capturing him at his hideout. It ends blissfully when the critically wounded Jim confesses to sis and the sheriff arrests Pete.REVIEWED ON 7/12/2005 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”