DVD Verdict
Home About News Blu-ray DVD Reviews Upcoming DVD Releases Contest Podcasts Forums Judges Contact  

Case Number 21938: Small Claims Court

Buy A Big Box Of Cowboys, Aliens, Robots And Death Rays at Amazon

A Big Box Of Cowboys, Aliens, Robots And Death Rays

Tombstone Canyon
1932 // 62 Minutes // Not Rated
Radio Ranch
1935 // 70 Minutes // Not Rated
The Vanishing Riders
1935 // 58 Minutes // Not Rated
Ghost Patrol
1936 // 51 Minutes // Not Rated
Riders Of The Whistling Skull
1937 // 58 Minutes // Not Rated
Gun Packer
1938 // 51 Minutes // Not Rated
Sky Bandits
1940 // 62 Minutes // Not Rated
Saddle Mountain Roundup
1941 // 59 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by S'more Entertainment
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // August 4th, 2011

• View Judge Sullivan's Dossier
• E-mail Judge Sullivan
• Printer Friendly Review


Every purchase you make through these Amazon links supports DVD Verdict's reviewing efforts. Thank you!




 

All Rise...

Judge Gordon Sullivan's been soaking in some death rays, but he's just a little sleepy.

The Charge

Eight weird Westerns in one big box.

The Case

When pundits are asked to name the quintessentially American art form, jazz is the usual answer. Its mix of European and African elements seems perfect for expressing the unique melting pot of American culture. However, I think the Western could just as easily earn a place as the most American of American art. It's been around as long (if not, longer, depending on how you count), has produced as many masterpieces, and has influenced as many minds. Much like jazz, the Western has not stayed a pure art form throughout its history. Just as there is jazz-rock, lite jazz, and psych jazz, the Western has given birth to offspring like the horror Western, the comedy Western, the musical Western, etc. Fans of The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. don't need to be reminded that there have been sci-fi Westerns, but this eight-film collection shows just how far back the sci-fi-Western stretches. It's for completists only, but each of these seventy-plus-year-old films has its own goofy charms.

A Big Box of Cowboys, Aliens, Robots and Death Rays presents eight Westerns on four discs. Each deals with the influences of some kind of sci-fi element in a typical Western tale:

Disc One
• Radio Ranch—Gene Autry discovers an underground race in this feature-length adaptation of a serial.

• Ghost Patrol"—Tim McCoy is a government agent sent to the West to investigate a death ray.

Disc Two
• Tombstone Canyon—Ken Maynard tries to stop a range war and meets "The Phantom Killer."

• Riders of the Whistling Skull—The "Three Mesquiteers" go in search of a missing professor, but find the Whistling Skull and an Indian cult as well.

Disc Three
• Sky Bandits—Another professor makes another death ray and gets caught between bandits and government agents.

• Gun Packer—Disappearing gold and an undercover cowboy meet in this strange tale of yet another professor.

Disc Four
• Saddle Mountain Roundup—Everybody wants the rancher's money in this haunted-house style Western.

• Vanishing Riders—A rancher hires a group of hands who hope to steal the cattle, but the rancher and his son devise a plan to use the ranch's haunted past to scare the rustlers.

On one level, A Big Box of Cowboys, Aliens, Robots and Death Rays is a blatant cash grab, leveraging cheap or public domain materials to put the word "cowboys" next to the word "aliens" on a DVD box the same summer that Cowboys and Aliens comes to the big screen. We've seen it before, with companies throwing a bunch of un-restored flicks on a bargain-priced DVD with a name that's almost like another, more famous film, and this release doesn't really feel any different. And yet, there's something so unremittingly goofy about this set that it's hard to fault it for being a cash-in. It starts with the ridiculous cover art, which features a cowboy with a metal head riding a horse away from an explosion and a flying saucer. One might think that it doesn't get any goofier than that, but the eight films in this set show that it most certainly can. Some (like Radio Ranch) are almost serious, while others (like Saddle Mountain Roundup) go straight for the funny bone. However, all of them paint a picture of the West as a rootin' tootin' place of varmints and cowboys. This is long before John Ford's vision of a lyrical, adult Western had taken root.

In the films' defense, these are all B productions, and have some surprisingly big names. Gene Autry, Yakima Canutt, and Tim McCoy are pretty famous actors in the Western circuit, and their presence brings a certain amount of historical significance to some of these flicks. They're all also short films: eight flicks in less than eight hours. So, even if the idea of an Indian cult at Whistling Skull doesn't tickle your fancy, it's over in about as much time as an hour of primetime drama. Finally, it's kind of interesting to see the Western married to another old school genre. Death rays and haunted house farces are not contemporary features of most movies, and to see them included along with the usual Western trappings, like horse riders and sage brush is oddly enjoyable.

All eight of these films are spread out on four discs, which, at 55 minutes or so a piece, feels awfully generous—and though the prints are in all kinds of different shape, there's nothing to complain about as far as the transfers to digital go. Expect every kind of damage that a print can suffer—scratches, bubbling, hairs, contrast shifting—but the films are still watchable, and compression artifacts and the like are not a problem. Each disc offers stereo audio. Dialogue is generally clear, but don't expect high fidelity. There's some hiss, some distortion, and pretty much all of it sounds a bit thin. There are no extras.

Those expecting anything like a big-budget summer blockbuster will be sorely disappointed, but any fans of old-school B Westerns or long-forgotten sci-fi fare will appreciate at least one of these eight films. Find it in the bargain bin and you can't lose.

The Verdict

This big box is full of the ridiculous, but it's not guilty.

Give us your feedback!

Did we give A Big Box Of Cowboys, Aliens, Robots And Death Rays a fair trial? yes / no

Share This Review


Follow DVD Verdict


Other Reviews You Might Enjoy

• Lethal Weapon 3
• Exit Speed
• Mutant X: Season Two
• Rio Grande: Collector's Edition

DVD Reviews Quick Index

• DVD Releases
• Recent DVD Reviews
• Search for a DVD review...

Genres

• Action
• Adventure
• Classic
• Concerts and Musicals
• Mystery
• Paranormal
• Romance
• Science Fiction
• Western

Scales of Justice, Tombstone Canyon

Judgment: 64

Perp Profile, Tombstone Canyon

Studio: S'more Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 62 Minutes
Release Year: 1932
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Tombstone Canyon

• None

Scales of Justice, Radio Ranch

Judgment: 65

Perp Profile, Radio Ranch

Studio: S'more Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 70 Minutes
Release Year: 1935
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Radio Ranch

• None

Scales of Justice, The Vanishing Riders

Judgment: 60

Perp Profile, The Vanishing Riders

Studio: S'more Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 58 Minutes
Release Year: 1935
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Vanishing Riders

• None

Scales of Justice, Ghost Patrol

Judgment: 60

Perp Profile, Ghost Patrol

Studio: S'more Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 51 Minutes
Release Year: 1936
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Ghost Patrol

• None

Scales of Justice, Riders Of The Whistling Skull

Judgment: 67

Perp Profile, Riders Of The Whistling Skull

Studio: S'more Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 58 Minutes
Release Year: 1937
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Riders Of The Whistling Skull

• None

Scales of Justice, Gun Packer

Judgment: 60

Perp Profile, Gun Packer

Studio: S'more Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 51 Minutes
Release Year: 1938
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Gun Packer

• None

Scales of Justice, Sky Bandits

Judgment: 61

Perp Profile, Sky Bandits

Studio: S'more Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 62 Minutes
Release Year: 1940
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Sky Bandits

• None

Scales of Justice, Saddle Mountain Roundup

Judgment: 64

Perp Profile, Saddle Mountain Roundup

Studio: S'more Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 59 Minutes
Release Year: 1941
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Saddle Mountain Roundup

• None








DVD | Blu-ray | Upcoming DVD Releases | About | Staff | Jobs | Contact | Subscribe | Find us on Google+ | Privacy Policy

Review content copyright © 2011 Gordon Sullivan; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.