Tuesday 17 April 2018

Movie Review: Texas Rangers Ride Again (1940)

A B-grade western, Texas Rangers Ride Again provides decent entertainment but never threatens to rise above its lowly status.

Ellen 'Slats' Dangerfield (Ellen Drew) returns to her family's massive Texas ranch after 10 years away and finds her grandma Cecilia (May Robson) dealing with a major crisis. Cattle is disappearing in large numbers with no clues left behind, and none of the family members and foremen appear to have answers. Cecilia turns to the Texas Rangers, and they dispatch undercover agents Jim Kingston (John Howard) and Mace Townsley (Broderick Crawford) to investigate.

Kingston pretends to be wanted outlaw The Pecos Kid and infiltrates the crew of Joe Yuma (Anthony Quinn), a disloyal cowboy supposedly working for the Dangerfields but actually coordinating cattle rustling on a massive scale on behalf of a black market cartel. Jim starts a rocky romantic pursuit of the feisty Ellen and has to find a way to bring the bandits to justice.

Directed by James P. Hogan and a sequel to 1936's The Texas Rangers, this is a lightweight and second-rate programmer, clocking in at 68 minutes. Given the rudimentary budget and constrained production values the film rustles up adequate and undemanding entertainment, mixing basic action with a steady stream of humour and flighty romance.

The setting is actually the modern day of 1940, giving Texas Rangers Ride Again an interesting but still disconcerting past-meets-present dimension. Rural Texas still looks the way it did fifty years past, but in addition to horses and six shooters both the Rangers and the bad guys have cars, trucks and wireless mobile radio transmitters at their disposal to help navigate and communicate across the vast swaths of cattle land.

The plot is standard fare undercover police work, as the Rangers infiltrate Joe Yuma's gang to uncover the impressively industrial-scale cattle rustling operation. The story is peppered by the playfully romantic tug of war between Ranger Jim and the likeable Ellen, who makes no secret of wanting to be anywhere but Texas.

Anthony Quinn receives ninth billing, but his role is easily among the most prominent in the film. May Robson dominates her scenes as the earthy family matron, raging at the inadequacies of all around her and contributing plenty of humour as she looks for a love of her own. Akim Tamiroff as the loyal housekeeper with embryonic English skills adds to the surprisingly deep talent pool.

Amusing and forgettable, Texas Rangers Ride Again hops over the extremely low bar it sets for itself.

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