Monday, October 13, 2008


It’s the cattlemen versus the sheep herders in “Montana” (1950), a B western gussied up with A-level talent. Errol Flynn stars as Australian Morgan Lane, who brings sheep to the grazing grounds of Montana, much to the consternation of the cattlemen there. The cattlemen are afraid the sheep will ruin the grazing grounds for their cattle, while Lane insists there’s plenty of land to go around for everyone. Perhaps if the sheepherders had opened up a gyros stand, a lot of violence could have been avoided? Surely the cattlemen get tired of eating steak all the time.

Actually, there’s not a lot of action in “Montana” but it’s a relatively painless way of spending 76 minutes. That’s a short running time for an Errol Flynn movie, but at this point in his career his box office was waning. The previous year Warner Bros. spent a small fortune on “Adventures of Don Juan” a wry, and very expensive, swashbuckler that was a big hit overseas, but less so here. So the budgets, and running times, were Flynn’s films were cut drastically.

The bad guys in “Montana”, led by Douglas Kennedy, are as bland and colorless a lot you will ever find in a Flynn film. We’re a far cry from Basil Rathbone and Bruce Cabot here. Heck, even Bogart’s turn as a Mexican bandit in “Virginia City” (1940) is at least amusing to watch. The direction by Ray Enright is pretty pedestrian.

But it’s not a total loss. The Technicolor photography is pretty, and Alexis Smith makes for a most fetching co-star (she sides with cattle barons, naturally) and Flynn and Smith have a nice rapport between them. They even get to sing a song called “Reckon I’m in Love” together which is very pleasant. Flynn had a nice singing voice and between this and his turn in “Thank Your Lucky Stars” (1943) makes one wish Warner Bros. had used this talent a little more. Oh, Sinatra would not have worried about the competition, but Flynn seems to be enjoying himself during these little musical interludes.

Rating for “Montana”: Two stars.

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