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SUSANNA PASS (director: William Witney; screenwriters: Sloan Nibley/John K. Butler; cinematographer: Reggie Lanning; editor: Tony Martinelli; music: Stanley Wilson; cast: Roy Rogers (Roy Rogers), Dale Evans (Kay ‘Doc’ Parker), Estelita Rodriguez (Rita), Martin Garralaga (Carlos), Lucien Littlefield (Russell Masters), Douglas Fowley (Roberts aka Walter P. Johnson), Robert Emmett Keane(Martin Masters), Robert Bice (Bob Oliver), David Sharpe (Henchman Vince), Riders of the Purple Sage (Themselves); Runtime: 67; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edward J. White; Republic; 1949)
“Better than usual contemporary Roy Rogers musical Western.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Veteran filmmaker of B films William Witney (“Apache Rose”/”Bells of San Angelo”/”Down Dakota Way”)directs this better than usual contemporary Roy Rogers musical Western. It’s set in a fish hatchery in Susanna Pass, California, and aims to promote fishing as a healthy outlet for the country’s youth. Writers Sloan Nibley and John K. Butler did some honest research about hatcheries and pass this information on in a seamless way.

Bob Oliver (Robert Bice) and Roberts (Douglas Fowley) are dangerous escaped convicts. Oliver seeks revenge on his respectable but crooked uncle, a newspaper publisher named Martin Masters (Robert Emmett Keane) who framed him. But when he dissolves his partnership with Roberts, he gets knifed by the vicious greedy former mining engineer and Roberts flees by wagon. We soon learn that Martin discovered there’s oil in the soil of the streams where his conservationist brother Russell runs a trout fish hatchery sponsored by the state, and he schemes to get his brother’s property for the oil.Brother Russell doesn’t know about the oil. Dr.Kay Parker (Dale Evans), an ichthyologist, is Russell’s new loyal assistant. Roy Rogers is the game warden, acting as sheriff while the real sheriff recovers from a horse spill. With Oliver out of the way, Roberts forces the slimy Martin to make him his partner in the plot to steal his brother’s property. They dynamite the streams and kill off many of the fish, and thereby hope to drive Russell out of business so they can take over the property. When Rogers thwarts that effort by finding a way that the lucrative state contract won’t be lost, the venal Martin kills his brother and makes it look like an accidental drowning.

The Riders of the Purple Sage play forest rangers and perform a few musical numbers. Estelita Rodriguez and Martin Garralaga are around for lame comic relief as Mexicans, with him the jail cook and she as his feisty daughter.

The photography and Republic’s Trucolor is visually pleasing, the predictable simplistic western is watchable and, supposedly cinema’s smartest horse, Trigger gets some face time.What more can you expect or want from a Rogers’ film?


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”