Santa Fe Stampede
Studio: Lions Gate/Republic
Film Length: 55 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Standard (4:3)
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Retail Price: $14.95
In 1935 Republic Pictures started their low-budget western series featuring The Three Mesquiteers with Powdersmoke Range and would end it with 1943’s Riders of the Rio Grande. Various actors graced the screen as the trio but the best known films are those with John Wayne whose first appearance was in 1938’s Pals of the Saddle. Wayne would make a total of eight Mesquiteers films with Santa Fe Stampede being the third.
The Three Mesquiteers--Stony (John Wayne), Tucson (Ray Corrigan) and Lullaby (Max Terhune)—are asked by a friend (William Farnum) to help keep some bad guys off his property. These bad guys are being controlled by the town’s greedy Mayor who knows that a gold mine is on the property. When the local Judge offers no help it’s up to the Mesquiteers to help but after the friend is murdered the Mayor makes it appear that Stony killed him in order to take over the mine. Now the boys must try and solve the case before the town folks kill Stony and let the guilty go free.
You certainly shouldn’t go into this film expecting anything like The Searchers or Once Upon a Time in the West because films like this were made cheaply, at a fast rate and their purpose was to entertain for an hour and nothing more. If you have a fondness for the “B” pictures of yesterday then you’ll know what to expect here and the film pretty much delivers on all grounds. There’s certainly nothing original or new here story wise but that’s fine since the entertainment level is high and the running time short.
Typical of a “B” Western, the title has absolutely nothing to do with the actual film so if you’re expecting any sort of stampede then you’ll be in for a big letdown. I’m sure that word was just added for an added boost to get people in the theater but either way you do get the typical “B” Western action. This ranges from various fist fights that break out at any moment including one hilarious scene where the heroes battle the bad guys right inside a court room, which lands them in contempt of court. We also get various shoot outs, which contain some mild excitement even though they are as fake as possible. The biggest highlight to a film like this is a dramatic ending, which usually contains the biggest stunts and here we get Wayne stuck inside a burning building trying to make an escape.
Another key to these films are the main cast members, which always adds a few chuckles and gives the viewer a reason to watch them. There were thousands of these types of films made during the decade yet the one’s with Wayne are certainly the most memorable and while the debate of Wayne as an actor will always continue there’s no denying his visual impact on any film. You can tell Wayne is having a lot of fun here including a wonderful scene where his friends young daughter shares her thoughts about marrying him. Wayne has all the vibrant energy to carry the film but his two co-stars also add a lot as well. Silent screen star William Farnum is a bit too wooden and over the top but this actually ads more charm to the film.
Santa Fe Stampede also contains a rather shocking and violent scene where the friend is actually killed. The final death sequence was trimmed back when the film was released due to it being too graphic for viewers back then but it’s restored here and it’s easy to see why so many would have objected to the scene back in its day. The film itself is nothing groundbreaking but fans of the “B” Western or John Wayne should get a kick out of the movie nonetheless.
VIDEO---The movie is shown full frame (4:3), which is the correct aspect ratio. Coming from Artisan I was expecting something horrid but was pleasantly shocked to see a pretty flawless transfer with only a few minor problems. Most of the “B” Westerns I’ve seen throughout my life have been released by public domain labels, which usually meant washed out prints, speckles all over the place plus various cuts in the print. I guess I should say this transfer here is the first time I’ve seen this type of film in great shape and it really helps bring the film out of its low budget range. The black and white image is crystal clear throughout and I’d even compare it to Republic’s work on It’s A Wonderful Life. The whites look very good throughout and the contrast is set perfectly throughout where you can actually see the actors faces as well as the sky, which usually contains dirt but that’s not the case here. The black levels are also very well handled without any problems. Again, with this type of film the blacks are usually so washed out that they bleed with the whites but here the blacks are rich and deep and perfectly show off the dark outfits worn by the bad guys and even better are the outdoor shots featuring trees and various other objects. The print does contain a few speckles here and there but you could count these scenes on one hand. A few lines also appear on the screen but you’ll have to look hard to see these.
AUDIO---We get a Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack, which sounds wonderful without any of the typical problems you get with these low-budget films. The dialogue is crystal clear without any scratches or cuts in the dialogue. The music score is mixed well, although it sometimes comes off a bit too loud especially in the action scenes. Everything from the gunshots to the dirt being kicked up is easily heard and best of all there’s no hiss in the background and none of the dialogue is cut up or scratchy.
EXTRAS---No extras have been included.
OVERALL---If you’re a fan of the B Western then I see no reason why you wouldn’t want to add this to your collection. I believe the infamous death scene wasn’t included on the previous VHS release but it is restored here. The B&W transfer, while not Warner quality, is pretty close and the Mono track does the film justice. It’s too bad we didn’t get a box set of the eight Wayne movies but this will do for now.
Release Date: May 11, 2004