Scout Clark Stuart, sent to Santa Fe to negotiate a treaty with the newly established Mexican government, finds strong allies. In the wagon train of Walter Jamison, with which Stuart is traveling, are Jim Bowie and, later, Davy Crockett, not to mention a youthful Kit Carson. Ordinarily that would be sufficient to ensure the completion of his mission, but opposing Stuart is a large and powerful band of scoundrels headed by deposed Spanish governor Escobedo Dupray, who hopes to regain dictatorial powers in the new Mexican territory by scuttling the treaty and destroying the wagon train. Dupray has imposing lieutenants in Zamorro and Macklin. Neither Stuart nor the pioneers could survive the treachery were it not for the repeated intervention of a mysterious, war-bonneted warrior astride a painted stallion. Time after time the Rider’s whistling arrows give warning of impending disaster until the final spectacular confrontation at a caverned escarpment near Santa Fe.
Best of the wagons westward serials, with a strong cast, dramatically photographed action, a fine score, and, in the Rider, an element of mystery seldom found in Westerns. Ray Corrigan, in buckskins and above-the-knee boots, is a noble and good-natured Clark Stuart. His breathtaking gallops across arresting landscapes are striking even on a small screen (as are those of the Rider). And if one hero is not enough, this serial has a mature, yet nonetheless dauntless, wagon boss, Hoot Gibson and, for good measure, not only the Rider, but also Jack Perrin. of silent days, as Davy Crockett, and the versatile Hal Taliaferro as Jim Bowie. (Sammy McKim is a spunky Kit Carson, who saves Stuart’s life more than once.) As Dupray, LeRoy Mason is at his villainous best. He has to be to keep ahead of the fiery Duncan Renaldo and the surly Maston Williams, whose Macklin is as mean a henchman as the serial screen ever displayed. Leading lady Julia Thayer, also known as Jean Carmen, makes a noteworthy contribution to the adventure, her role being etched into the memory of original viewers, young fellers particularly. Oscar and Elmer, rube comics–and the only exceptions to the general excellence–contribute generally embarrassing bits, but they do so enthusiastically, at least.
William Nobles and Edgar Lyons deserve special mention for their outstanding camera work, which frequently emphasizes vertical perpectives, from canyon floor or clifftop. The shots of the Rider outlined on a distant elevation stay in memory, as does the sequence in which the camera tilts downward to capture the Rider, trapped in a small canyon and urging the Painted Stallion to the left, then the right, in a futile effort to break free. The scene generates the same kind of desperation viewers would encounter five decades later when the Pawnee raider is encircled in shallow water during Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves.
Accenting the cinematography, which sometimes suggests still landscapes, is the balanced musical collage of Raoul Kraushaar. Representing a transitional span between the canned accompaniments of earlier days and the creative scoring of subsequent Republic efforts, it aptly incorporates screen composer Hugo Riesenfeld’s “Pinto,” as well as an affecting theme associated with the Rider. With this film William Witney advanced to directing status. Yakima Canutt both set up and participated in the stunt work.
The Painted Stallion
Republic 1937 / 12 Chapters
Directed by: William Witney, Alan James, Ray Taylor
Starring Ray “Crash” Corrigan as Clark Stuart
Hoot Gibson as Walter Jamison
Sammy McKim as Kit Carson
LeRoy Mason as Dupray
Jack Perrin as Davy Crockett
Hal Taliaferro as Jim Bowie
Julia Thayer (Jean Carmen)
Duncan Renaldo as Zamoro
Oscar and Elmer
Yakima Canutt as Tom
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