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Friday, November 2, 2012

MONTANA (1950)

You can almost feel Warner Bros. washing their hands of Errol Flynn (and his pricey contract) on this Western programmer. Minimal production values and a B-list megger (Ray Enright) do it in, yet the basic idea isn’t bad at all. It’s that old stand-by, Cattlemen vs Homesteaders, but nicely varied to play into Flynn’s Aussie roots as Cattlemen vs Sheepmen. Alexis Smith is on hand as a ranch owner ready to be romantically won over and S. Z. Sakall shows up driving a covered-wagon department store for comic relief. Too bad no one bothered to work out the plot & character turns, pulling the plug after a brief 76 minutes. Even shorter once you factor in a couple of musical numbers which at least seem to let Flynn & Smith do their own vocals. A nice touch even if Smith looks oddly uncomfortable in her tight costumes while Flynn looks just plain tight. Maybe that explains the unusual amount of stunt doubling for the aging matinee idol.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Flynn ran out his contract with happier results: a couple of decent loan-outs to M-G-M and a final Warners release, THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE/’53, one of his better late efforts.

READ ALL ABOUT IT: According to Flynn's auto-bio (MY WICKED, WICKED WAYS), he did some sheep tending as a young man back in Australia.  Alas, there's nothing in the film that displays any great lamb-expertise and definitely no sign of a custom he claims to have performed called daggit ta hapsheep (well, that's close to the phrase) which is castating male sheep with your teeth!

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