- Directed by George Sherman
- August 28, 1938
The Three Mesquiteers become involved in a plot where foreign agents are trying to smuggle ingredients for poison gas into Mexico.
The story here in Pals of the Saddle is pretty thin. This was a B-movie oater from Republic Pictures. I use the word “movie” in connection to this loosely as this is about 55 minutes from start to finish. Nobody releases anything of that length into theaters anymore and rarely do so direct to video. This was a film done cheaply for a quick buck and it shows at points. Heck, this Was their equivalent of direct to video.
If you are expecting to see a level of John Wayne in this movie comparable to his later work forget it. This was before he became a huge star. They knew what they had and gave him an elevated level of focus here. It is my understanding there is a greater emphasis on the single character of Stoney Brooks (John Wayne) than on Tucson Smith (Ray Corrigan) or Lullaby Joslin (Max Terhune). This was in the period after The Big Trail but before Stagecoach. Wayne is not bad here but there is nothing special in his performance. He shows none of the John Wayne mannerisms such as the walk or the talk, but he does show the same style of comedy in the lighter moments.
This is a lighthearted Western adventure despite the presence of poison gas and vaguely affiliated villainous agents. Pals of the Saddle appears to be set in the then modern day but sports all the trappings of a Western from horses to old sidearms to cowboy hats. There is an opening montage showing modern fighting and tanks but then it goes full on cowboy. I really wished I had taken a closer look at the newspaper that flashed across the screen to see a date. I did quickly not care about the question of time period though as I found myself enjoying the movie.
Pals of the Saddle is a spy caper as well as a Western. We have a beautiful Secret Service Agent (Doreen McKay) who is hot on the bad guy’s trail. After her subordinate Frank (Frank Milan) is shot and Stony gets framed for the murder of foreign agent Paul Hartman (George Douglas), he is forcibly involved by the female agent in order to clear his name. How that exactly works I am not sure. He passes off the body of Frank as his and how that does not cause problems with the authorities at the end I do not know. After Stony, Tucson, and Lullaby smash the plot they immediately ride off and nobody even acknowledges Frank’s corpse of the fraud that occurred.
The acting is not great, but the story is light and enjoyable enough and that helps get you through the rough parts. Because of the general cheap nature of this movie there are some rough spots. The internal logic of the film is questionable, but this was never meant to be sophisticated. Still though there is a charm to it all and you will be entertained.
Pals of the Saddle is something for the Western aficionado to watch. It is not a must see for everybody but for the aficionado to see how they were done in the old days. This is an if you want.