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bud-wood

The Lawless Frontier

The Lawless Frontier is a 1934 American western film directed by Robert N. Bradbury and starring John Wayne, Shelia Terry, George 'Gabby' Hayes, and Earl Dwine.

Plot overview

The vastly lower quality of Lawless Frontier (1934), even by poverty row film standards, is evident from the opening scenes which cuts between guys shooting out a cabin window in the darkest night, to cattle rustlers moving cows through brightest day not noticing to the gunshots, to some of the bad guys who seem to hear the gunshots & later begin to return fire.

In various moments throughout the film unrelated footages were spliced together from random left-overs off the cutting room floor of several other films, & a story-of-sorts retrospectively imposed on the results. Not until John Tobin (John Wayne) arrives home later that night & discovers his family killed can we guess the people shooting from the window were an innocent family robbed of their cattle, though the way it was edited it looked like the people in the cabin were shooting first, at mere cattlemen.

John Wayne (Tobin) sets out in search Pandro Zanti (Earl Dwire) the local bandito, for all appearances a stereotyped Mexican, though the script is twice careful to tell us he is half white & half Apache & only pretends to be Mexican.

Zanti plans to kidnap George "Gabby" Hayes's daughter Ruby (Sheila Terry) for his lusty needs. This is an unusual villainous trait for 1930s matinee westerns, aimed at young audiences who expected villains to be claim jumpers & killers, not rapists. Ruby & her daddy (George "Gabby" Hayes) hightail it out of there before she falls victim of the killer, escaping by a clever ruse that almost gets Ruby drowned in a river.

They run into Tobin tracking his family's killers, & whose stunt double does that standard stunt of horse & rider jumping into a lake, though Tobin's afterward perfectly dry. There was a convoluted bit in the middle of the film intended to get Tobin off his white horse & on a brown one, so that the horse-leap scene could be clipped from Riders of Destiny for insertion here. Tobin then saves the sack of Ruby & then they both dry off magically fast. Ruby, Dusty & Tobin thereafter join forces.

Sheriff Luke Williams (Jack Rockwell) playing the tough sheriff who not only immediately takes credit for capturing Zanti when Tobin brings him in, but also arrests Tobin for the murder of Ruby's father Dusty who took a knife deep in the back & fell down dead. But Dusty will soon after, with wild disregard for probabilities, recover from death, claiming it was only a flesh wound, not even needing a bandaid or his shirt sewn.

Sheriff Williams however makes a series of mistakes including handcuffing a bad guy's boot to a bed, so that all he has to do is take off his boot to escape, especially when Tobin made of point of telling Williams thatat Zanti can probably get loose.

Then there is an oddly filmed chase scene with some seriously unethical editing, across the desert partly on foot, Tobin after Zanti. The plot doesn't want Tobin to be portrayed as a killer, so the bad guy just happens on a desert watering hole clearly marked "Poison. Do not drink," drinks it anyway, & drops dead.

However the film's not yet over, though the chief villain is now out of the picture. We're treated to plenty more hard ridin' & can't-hit-anthing shootin', as Ruby & Tobin flee from Zanti's gang. When the happy ending finally arrives, Tobin becomes the new sheriff, replacing the halfwit Williams.

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