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With: John Wayne, Ray Corrigan, Max Terhune, Louise Brooks, Anthony Marsh, John Archer, Gordon Hart, Roy James, Olin Francis, Fern Emmett, Henry Otho, George Sherwood, Arch Hall Sr., Frank LaRue
Written by: William Colt MacDonald
Directed by: George Sherman
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 55
Date: 09/20/1938

Overland Stage Raiders (1938)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Plane and Simple

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Most movie fans know the story of John Wayne by now. He was groomed for stardom as early as 1930, and given the lead role in Raoul Walsh's expensive The Big Trail (1930), which experimented with an early widescreen process. Unfortunately, the movie was a flop, and Wayne wasn't quite ready, and so he was sent back to making "B" pictures for another decade.

These films, some sixty of them, are mostly unremarkable. But worth mentioning is Wayne's participation in a series called "The Three Mesquiteers." This trio of modern day cowboys bantered amongst themselves and helped foil all kinds of evil plots. There were 51 of these movies in all, with Wayne appearing in eight of them as "Stony Brooke."

Now Olive Films has released four of these, all with Wayne, Ray "Crash" Corrigan as "Tucson Smith" and Max Terhune as "Lullaby Joslin," and all four directed by George Sherman. They each run about an hour.

Overland Stage Raiders is perhaps the most notable, though not because of the filmmaking.

In the movie, our heroes buy up a struggling airline as a way to transport gold, and keep it safe from hijackers. Unfortunately, the bad guys have found a way to get to the plane as well.

It appears that dialogue was cheaper than action sequences, and the movie spends a great deal of time with characters telling the plot to each other. There's a scene of the heroes daringly foiling a train robbery, which is fairly sad compared to what was coming just months later in Stagecoach (1939), which was Wayne's first real breakthrough to "A" list stardom.

No... the real reason to see Overland Stage Raiders is that it's the final screen appearance of silent era icon Louise Brooks, which is sad considering that she lived until 1985 -- that's almost 50 years without making a movie. I had never heard her speak before, and she's not so good with this movie's explanatory dialogue (but neither are any of the other actors). In this movie she's not dressed to look like the sexy heroine of Pandora's Box or Diary of a Lost Girl, but she still looks great.

However, Corrigan is an interesting figure as well. He was a staple of "B" Westerns for a number of years, but his fans also know him as one of the best "gorilla" actors (he apparently owned his own suit).

There you have it. This is a movie only for John Wayne completists and Louise Brooks completists, and if you're both at the same time, it's a great day for you. Olive Films has released Overland Stage Raiders on both Blu-ray and DVD. The other three titles are (1938), (1939), and (1939).

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