"Lawless Range" has all the look and feel of John Wayne's Lone Star Westerns, but this one came from Republic Pictures during the same era. Adding to the tone of the film is the direction of Robert North Bradbury, who also made some of the Lone Star pictures; one of his trademarks is the quick flash forward technique used once in an early sequence.
The formula pretty much remains the same too, this time Wayne's character takes on two identities. He's John Middleton posing as John Allen, working undercover for the local marshal (Jack Curtis) to expose a crooked bunch known as the Butch Martin gang. Interestingly, we never see Butch Martin, presumably it was a phony name to keep the real brains behind the gang under wraps. That would have been banker Carter (Frank McGlynn Jr.), who's trying to use late mortgage pressure to put the local ranchers under.
You have to give credit to some of these early Westerns for the innovative stunt work done with men and horses alike. There were a few incredible mounted horse spills in the movie that make you wonder how they could have done that. There's also a great sequence where Wayne's character takes off after two villains on horseback, and catching up to the first, jumps on the henchman's horse knocking him off while continuing to chase the second. If you rewind and pay real close attention, you can distinguish the difference in body build between Wayne and stunt man Yakima Canutt as the exchange is made. Yak portrayed the nominal leader of the Martin gang, every now and then mentioning he had to check in with the 'chief'.
I got a kick out of the scene where Middleton reports to the sheriff on the ambush prepared by the bad guys at Shotgun Pass. The marshal just happens to have a couple dozen men hanging around just ready to ride into action.
As an added treat, John Wayne is shown singing a couple tunes in the course of the film, but the voice is obviously dubbed in, otherwise we're listening to a low, deep falsetto. In one instance he serenades the film's romantic interest, Ann Mason (Sheila Mannors). Here again we pick up a mainstay from Wayne's Lone Star Westerns, as the movie ends, he's seen getting cozy with his girl for the final frame.
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