May 30, 201202:47 PMThe Telegraph
The Premier Blog of the West
Wednesday Western: 'The Dawn Rider' - Not To Be Confused With 'Dawn Rider'
Free for you to view on YouTube: The Dawn Rider, a straight-shooting 1935 western directed by the legendarily prolific Robert N. Bradbury (who also gave us The Star Packer and Rainbow Valley), and starring a startlingly young, pre-Stagecoach John Wayne.
The briskly paced plot calls for cowboy John Mason (Wayne) to return to the Wild West town where his father operates the express office. But there’s no time for a family reunion: Shortly after John’s arrival, his dad is killed by bandits – and John himself is seriously wounded after shooting two of the varmints. Don’t worry, though: He’s nursed back to health by Alice Gordon (Marion Burns), the sweetheart of John’s new buddy Ben McClure (Reed Howes).
Unfortunately, John and Alice fall in love, which places considerable strain on John’s friendship with Ben. Even more unfortunately, Rudd Gordon (Denny Meadows), Alice’s seemingly sympathetic brother, is one of the bad guys who murdered John’s father.
The Dawn Rider – an unpretentious B-movie filmed on a miniscule budget – is all the more impressive as undemanding entertainment if you compare it to its newly released, aggressively vulgar and altogether useless remake, Dawn Rider, an R-rated, Canadian-produced direct-to-video feature now showing at a Redbox kiosk or Wal-Mart shelf near you.
Christian Slater has the John Wayne role (but doesn’t do much with it), Jill Hennessy (late of Luck) plays Alice, and it’s safe to say that neither will list this misbegotten effort very prominently on future resumes. Director Terry Miles and his co-scriptwriters have labored mightily to expand the original flick’s 55-minute scenario by an extra half-hour or so, but the pacing is so bumpy, and the transitions and character developments seem so arbitrary, that you can’t help suspecting they simply made the whole dang thing up as they went along.
As for the vulgar stuff: Look, we’re not prudes, but what can you say about a movie that begins with a shot of a stream of urine propelled by an off-camera character? (No, really.) But wait, there’s more: The filmmakers, perhaps overly influenced by Deadwood reruns, attempt to make their old-fashioned story seem gritty and “realistic” by having characters launch fusillades of F-bombs at every opportunity. The result isn’t offensive so much as it’s downright laughable – particularly when John doffs his Stetson upon entering Alice’s home, and Alice cracks: “I think we’re way past you takin’ your [expletive deleted] hat off.”
To be fair: When she isn’t trying so hard to out-cuss the guys, Jill Hennessy is maturely attractive and persuasively authoritative, so she might want to use this film as an audition tape to be cast in a real western. And the great Donald Sutherland appears infrequently but effectively as a Pinkerton agent who’s dogging John’s trail for fun and profit.
It should be noted, though, that when Sutherland’s grizzled gunman bids adieu to the town where most of the action take place, he exclaims: “I hate the West!” Do you think he might have been expressing the true attitude of the filmmakers who delivered this dud?
Here is 1935's The Dawn Rider:
And here is the trailer for the remake.