Lionsgate // 1944 // 62 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Corupe (Retired) // March 24th, 2006
Hot lead answers a claim-jumping gang!
The most famous tumbleweed author who ever lived, Zane Grey wrote over 100 books in his lifetime, virtually pioneering the western fiction genre and becoming a major figure in pulp writing. He was such a successful figure that in the 1930s and '40s, studios found that simply attaching Grey's name to a quickie low budget western would always garner an interested audience, no matter who the stars were. Released by Lionsgate as part of their "Zane Grey Western Classics" line, the Grey-adapted Nevada is not a bad little 1940s B-western, definitely worth a look to see Robert Mitchum in his first leading man role.
Just as cowboy Jim "Nevada" Lacy (Robert Mitchum, Thunder Road) wins $7000 at a craps table across town, grizzled farmer Ben Ide (Larry Wheat, Magic Town) withdraws the same amount out of the bank to purchase some mining equipment in Carson City. As Ben starts his long journey, however, he's unceremoniously picked off by a rifleman and robbed. When Nevada rides by the dead man, he rushes to his aid, but finds only trouble -- the law arrives, finds his fat bankroll, and arrests him on suspicion of the murder. Of course, it's all a plot by Cash Burridge (Craig Reynolds), a dubious developer who knows that there's silver in them thar hills -- he had to prevent old Ben from getting a tell-tale mound of blue clay analyzed in Carson.
Despite a lack of concrete evidence against Nevada, the townspeople are calling for a necktie party, but he's saved at the last minute by some quick thinking from his sidekicks Chito (Richard Martin, Four Fast Guns) and Dusty (Guinn Williams, The Alamo). Free at last, Nevada returns to Ben's farm, hits on his charming daughter (Nancy Gates, The Magnificent Ambersons), and unravels Burridge's scam.
Here's yet another volume in Lionsgate's middling "Zane Grey Western Classics" series, but it's easily one of the more notable entries. The pulpy action is as quick as it is thick, with rootin' tootin' gunfights, classic villainous scheming, and a tough but upstanding hero.
Director Edward Killy, a veteran of more than a dozen similar B-westerns, keeps this short, 62-minute film clipping along nicely with rapid-fire editing, frequent and explosive action, and enough plot twists to keep an undemanding audience enthralled. It certainly helps that the plot is also one of Grey's better efforts, an exciting tale full of pulpy dialogue that makes good comedic use of Nevada's companions and doesn't overplay its love story, two critical elements that have been known to sink better budgeted films. Like most horse operas of the decade, it never rises above cheap throwaway entertainment, but it delivers everything it should.
"Introducing Bob Mitchum," the credits of Nevada's credits boast, and they aren't kidding. In his first major screen role, Robert Mitchum is exceptional as "Nevada" Lacy, playing the role with his trademark sleepy-eyed charisma and humor and giving a good indication of why he rocketed from B-westerns to A-list stardom in only a few years. But Mitchum isn't the only notable name in Nevada -- though they didn't go on to quite the same level of fame, Nancy Gates and Anne Jeffreys are both well-respected TV veterans today, and they are perfectly charming in their roles, forming something of a good girl/bad girl rivalry for Nevada's affections. As the town gambler/dancehall singer/banker, Jeffreys is particularly impressive, giving off a cool charm with just a hint of danger.
Originally released by Lionsgate as part of a double feature disc along with Mitchum's next western, West of the Pecos, the full frame, black and white Nevada looks like it's been on the trail for far too long. It's pretty fuzzy, with nicks and scratches that constantly crop up throughout the running time. The mono soundtrack gets the job done, but little more -- underlying hiss and distorted high frequencies detract somewhat from the dialogue.
You wouldn't think that Lionsgate would have included any extras on this release, but perhaps the short length of the feature twigged their conscience. To help beef up this disc, they've included three short featurettes that are found on each entry in the "Zane Grey Western Classics" line. "Outdoor Adventures" is a tedious, 45-minute travelogue of Grey's fishing excursions narrated in excitable newsreel style. It's introduced by the author's son, Loren, but it's completely skippable, especially considering that the "Fisherman's Pluck," a short nine-minute film about pretty much the same thing, is much easier to digest. Finally, there's a decent biography of Grey called "An American Legend" that traces the infamous author's life and love of the outdoors. It's not in the greatest shape, since it was shot for TV in the 1980s, but it's relatively interesting, clocking in at about half an hour.
Lionsgate's usual barely adequate edition really does this film no favors, but Nevada is a solid, action-packed tumbleweed programmer that is sure to appeal to fans of Mitchum and classic B-westerns alike.
Not guilty, you varmints.
Review content copyright © 2006 Paul Corupe; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 62 Minutes
Release Year: 1944
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Outdoor Adventures
* Fisherman's Pluck
* An American Legend