WINDS OF THE WASTELAND
(director: Mack V. Wright; screenwriter: story by Joseph F. Poland/Mr. Poland; cinematographer: William Nobles; editor: Robert Jahns; music: Louis De Francesco; cast: John Wayne (John Blair), Phyllis Fraser (Barbara Forsythe), Lew Kelly (Mayor Rocky O’Brien), Douglas Cosgrove (Cal Drake), Lane Chandler (Larry Adams), Sam Flint (Dr. William ‘Doc’ Forsythe), Ed Cassidy(Mr. Dodge, Pony Express manager), Yakima Canutt (Smokey); Runtime: 58; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Nat Levine; Republic; 1936)
“Decent (if you’re a friend of the genre “pardner”) but nothing special.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A genial B Western from the early John Wayne period at Republic that’s decent (if you’re a friend of the genre “pardner”) but nothing special. It reunites Wayne with Mack V. Wright, who directed him in his earlier days at Warner Brothers. It’s scripted by Joseph F. Poland from his own story. “Winds” was filmed on location in the Sierra Mountains and in the Sacramento Valley.
The film opens with the end of the Pony Express era due to the telegraph. Best friends John Blair (John Wayne) and Larry Adams (Lane Chandler) decide to take the offer of two gift Pony Express horses offered by boss Mr. Dodge to former employees and open up a stagecoach line. The naive businessmen head to nearby Buchanan City and crooked stagecoach owner “Honest” Cal Drake (Douglas Cosgrove) dupes them into buying a rundown stage in the nearby ghost city of Crescent City for $3,000.
In Crescent City, they are befriended by the amiable mayor Rocky O’Brien (Lew Kelly) and the disheartened Dr. Forsythe (Sam Flint), who got cheated by Drake and is too ashamed to return east as a loser. Rocky informs John that there’s a government mail contract of $25,000 for the stage that wins the race from Buchanan City to Sacramento. If John wins, he not only saves his stagecoach line but rebuilds the town. The race has the villainous Drake, described as being as crooked as a snake, and his number one thug Smokey (Yakima Canutt), pulling out all the punches to stop John from winning the race. But, as you would expect, despite Drake framing John to get him arrested on the day of the race, using a dynamite explosion, having gunmen try to kill him and attempting to lasso his stagecoach horses in a his last futile effort to win the race, the movie fix was in and if you bet on the Wayne team you were a winner. Wayne also gets to marry the daughter of Doc Forsythe, Barbara (Phyllis Fraser), who paid dad a surprise visit and after first disliking the town and Wayne fell in love with both.
REVIEWED ON 7/3/2005 GRADE: C+