(director: Wallace Fox; screenwriter: Adele S. Buffington/from the novel by William Colt MacDonald; cinematographer: Harold Wenstrom; editor: James Morley; cast: Harry Carey (Tucson Smith), Hoot Gibson (Stony Brooke), Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams (Lullaby Joslin), Bob Steele (Jeff ‘Guadalupe Kid’ Ferguson), Tom Tyler (Sundown Saunders), Boots Mallory (Carolyn Sibley), Sam Hardy (Big Steve Ogden), Adrian Morris (Deputy Brose Glascow), Wally Wales (Aloysius ‘Bud’ Taggart); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Cliff Reid; RKO; 1935)

“Proved to be a box office success but a critical disappointment despite its powerful cast of Western favorites and old-timers.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Proved to be a box office success but a critical disappointment despite its powerful cast of Western favorites and old-timers, as the plot remained thin. It was based on one of the 1934 novels by William Colt MacDonald about “The Three Mesquiteers.” He basically subbed the Dumas characters for the Western setting. This was the second Mesquiteer film, following on the heels of the “Law of the .45’s,” but it’s the one that launched the soon to be successful series; Republic bought the film rights and regularly cranked out some 4 to 6 episodes every year (totaling 51) until 1943, using different players to fill the title roles of the Mesquiteers. One of them was John Wayne until he graduated from B-films with his hit in the 1939 Stagecoach.

Wallace Fox (“Six Gun Mesa”/”Arizona Territory”/”Jack Armstrong”) directs this muddled B-film without distinction; it was promisingly billed by RKO as the “Barnum & Bailey of Westerns.” There were some 13 former silent screen Western stars who appeared: Harry Carey, Hoot Gibson, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams, Bob Steele, Tom Tyler, Buzz Barton, Wally Wales, Art Mix, Buffalo Bill Jr., Buddy Roosevelt, Franklyn Farnum, William Desmond, and William Farnum.

The Three Mesquiteers, Tucson Smith (Harry Carey), Stony Brooke (Hoot Gibson), Lullaby Joslin (Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams), come upon a stagecoach robbery in progress where the driver is killed. They catch the outlaw and bring him to the law, and when rifling through the mail that scattered all over the ground they discover the outlaw was after a letter addressed to Tucson telling him the boys are the new owners of a ranch. The Guadalupe Kid (Bob Steele) is the outlaw they befriended and gave him a $1,000 to go straight. That he did and now repays the boys for the favor by buying them unannounced this spread. When the oily owner of the Red Bull bar and political big wheel in town, Big Steve Ogden (Sam Hardy), schemes to take over their 3 Bar O ranch, using corrupt deputy sheriff Glasgow (Adrian Morris) to thwart them at every turn, cowboys to steal the deed and then hiring the snarling gunslinger Sundown Saunders (Tom Tyler) to force a shootout with Tucson. But things work out favorably in the end for the good guys.

It has enough star appeal to be watchable; it also had its funny moments such as the gruff Carey telling one hombre he has a bullet ready with his address on it and watching an antsy for action Gibson chowing down without a stop while complaining of the lack of variety in their ranch diet.

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REVIEWED ON 6/4/2007 GRADE: B-    https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/