(director: Jerry Hopper; screenwriters: story by Frank Gruber/Charles Marquis Warren; cinematographer: Ray Rennahan; editor: Eda Warren; music: Paul Sawtell; cast: Charlton Heston (William F. ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody), Rhonda Fleming (Evelyn Hastings), Jan Sterling (Denny), Forrest Tucker (Wild Bill Hickok), Michael Moore (Rance Hastings), Porter Hall (Jim Bridger), Henry Brandon (Joe Cooper, Owner Overland Express Co.), Lewis Martin (Sergeant Russell), Pat Hogan (Chief Yellow Hand), Stuart Randall (Pemberton), Richard Shannon (Barrett); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Nat Holt; Paramount Home Video; 1953)
“The film gets over mostly because Heston keeps things hopping with his jaunty behavior.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A lively but routine horse opera about the adventurous mountain man Buffalo Bill Cody (Charlton Heston) and the laconic frontier man Wild Bill Hickok (Forrest Tucker) and their sidekicks starting the famous wilderness mail route from back East in St. Joseph to out West in Sacramento in only ten days. There’s a subplot that takes up most of the film’s energy of a brother and sister team of prominent Californians Rance Hastings (Michael Moore) and Evelyn Hastings (Rhonda Fleming), who scheme to split California from the Union in 1860. Joe Cooper (Henry Brandon) is the owner of the Overland Stage who fears the Pony Express will put him out of business and teams with the greedy sibling duo to impede the Pony Express. Hoping to make a fortune by getting California to secede from the Union, the Hastings arm the Indians and they attack the Pony Express. Tomboy Denny (Jan Sterling), smitten with Buffalo Bill, gives her life to save his during an Indian skirmish led by Chief Yellow Hand (Pat Hogan). In the end the good guys stop the sinister plot and save the Union, and the mail goes through in record time.

The 101 minutes is not justified to tell this modest story. Also the directing by Jerry Hopper (“Hurricane Smith”/”Smoke Signal”/”The Atomic City”) lacks imagination and he fails to give the film an overall shape. It’s taken from a story by Frank Gruber and written by Charles Marquis Warren. The film gets over mostly because Heston keeps things hopping with his jaunty behavior. It’s a loose remake of the popular 1925 silent.

Pony Express (1953)