Thursday, June 28, 2018

Elvis Presley on the Upbeat

The following are pages from Radio TV Mirror, that make up an article called Elvis on the Upbeat.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Movie Review: Tag

Review Written by Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: C+

Review: Charming little movie, but not as funny as one would hope, and gets too mean spirited at one point.

The most charming thing about this movie is seeing how dedicated these people enjoy each other's company. The characters themselves are quite cliché, but really get the feeling that they do enjoy each other's company. As such this movie reminds one of silly things they have done with their friends. This is where the movie works best, there is a feeling of nostalgia here that is quite effective and can bring one back to his or her childhood, almost wishing they could have stayed as close to their childhood friends as these men have done. The humor itself is hit and miss, and makes one feel for a comedy this could have been better. There are a couple times, I laughed out loud, but they were too few and more jokes either just give one a faint smile or fell flat. With how over the top most of the humor is and how desperate this movie seems to be to get a laugh, I can't help but feel I should have laughed much more. The idea of grown men taking a child's game way too seriously is an idea ripe with comedy, but this movie only scratches the surface of the comedic possibilities that could be given from this situation. While most of the over the top slapstick comedy doesn't feel meanspirited because it is too over the top to take seriously, there is a scene involving a character telling a lie, that feels way too meanspirited and out of place in such a lighthearted movie. I wish they could have found a way to do this film withouth this scene. Still despite any faults the charm of the premise and realtionships between the characters is very charming. That and the few really funny jokes, help make this movie worth seeing, even if it is easy to recognize the film doesn't live up to the full potential provide here.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Monday, June 25, 2018

Johnny Cash Producing a Jimmie Rodgers Film?

I have a confession. I don't know every little thing about film. Similarly something I found recently, not only shocks me, but leaves me wondering. This is from an article in Boxoffice Magazine (dated May 29, 1961) "Johnny Cash purchased rights to the 'Jimmie Rodgers Story' from Rodger's widow and will film it as an independent production for his Johnny Cash Productions this fall. Rodgers who died in 1932 was considered the 'patron saint' of country music …" You can view the article here.

As a fan of Country Music, who loves both Jimmie Rodgers and Johnny Cash, this film is fascinating. However I can not find anything else about such a film. What makes this even weirder is that as far as I know, Cash only produced one film, The Gospel Road (1973). I feel it is safe to assume that either this film never came to be or Boxoffice was misinformed.

If anybody out there knows more about this than I do let me know.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, June 23, 2018

On the Road with Bing and Bob

When great comedy teams are mentioned, I feel that too often Bing Crosby and Bob Hope get left out. It is true that they made relatively few pictures together, and both had extremely successful careers without the other. However The series of "Road Pictures" they made together are pure delights from beginning to end. Everything about these movies work fantastically. They are full of fantastic gags, great music and a sense of pure fun escapism.

Today at The Old Town Music Hall (which I have written about many times on this blog), I was able to see two of these movies in a theater they way they were meant to be seen. These were Road to Morocco (1942) and Road to Utopia (1945). One thing I get great joy out of is hearing an audience laugh at a comedy film, I have seen many times, but they are laughing like it is fresh and new to them. I definitely got lot of that here. Watching these in a theater you truly realize what great gems of movies these are and how they can delight audiences today just as much as they did in the 1940's. Though I love these movies a lot this was my first time viewing them in this setting, and they somehow are even better when seen in a theater.

Like always at the Old Town Music Hall the features were proceed by live music on a 1925 Wurlitzer Pipe Organ. It was played by two very talented musicians, Bill Field and Edward Torres. Also preceding the features was Chapter 10 of the classic Movie Serial, Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938), and trust me I am in much suspense to see what happens next.   

To see just how well Road to Utopia did at the box office look at this article from the Motion Picture Daily:

To see one way Road to Utopia was advertised outside a theater look at this article from the Motion Picture Herald: (also shown in this article is how the movie Duffy's Tavern (1945) also starring Bing Crosby was advertised).

The following article from The Motion Picture Herald gives advise on how a theater should advertise Road to Morocco

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, June 22, 2018

Movie Review: Jurrassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: D-

Review: This movie has a typical and cliché storyline for a mindless action film. Despite that the film takes itself much to seriously to be any fun. While many mindless action movies contain just as many clichés and plot contrivances seen here, they know what they are and that their plots are just plain old silly and let the audiences have fun with what they are watching. This film denies us such pleasure because everything about this movie make us believe that we are actually supposed to take the clichés constantly thrown at us very seriously. A big important speech at the beginning and end of this film perfectly shows the problem with this movie. This speech seems like it is trying to convey some thought provoking message, while any such message is largely absent from this movie.

Not helping the movie is that the main characters from the last film return. The characters were easily the weakest part of the last movie as they are completely bland and without anything resembling personality. The only thing that has changed here is the rest of the movie is just as bland as them.

The only thing that kind of works about this film is the character of a little girl. She may not be a complex character but she is likable and we want her to make it out alive. Her being threatened is the only part of the movie to create some real suspense.

Overall this movie could have easily benefited from either being treated less seriously or giving us something to take seriously. As this movie does neither the whole film just comes off as dull and with little merit. Heck the film couldn't even come up with a good use for Geraldine Chaplin (not only Charlie's daughter but a great actress in her own right.)

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Monday, June 18, 2018

Mickey Mouse in "Traffic Troubles" (1931)

Traffic Troubles is a typically fast paced and fun Mickey Mouse short from the early 1930's. There is nothing new innovated here, but the cartoon is too much fun to let that bother you.

This cartoon was directed by Burt Gillett. Gillet was one of the studio's major directors of the early 1930's. His cartoons include such classics as The Chain Gang (1930), Mickey's Orphans (1931), Flowers and Trees (1932), Trader Mickey (1932), Mickey's Good Deed (1932), The Three Little Pigs (1933), Mickey's Gala Premiere (1933), Playful Pluto (1934) and many others.

Animation for this film began on December 12, 1930 and was completed on January 1, 1931. It was released on March 7, 1931. A famous story about the making of this cartoon involved a scene David Hand was animating. Walt kept telling him, the scene needed to be more exaggerated. This made Hand so frustrated he decided to show Walt he would make it twice as exaggerated. Though Hand felt this might get him fired, this new animation was exactly what Walt wanted.

This cartoon is one of the five viewable in the Main Street Cinema in Disneyland.

 In 1933, this cartoon was released on 16mm film, for home viewing. This 16mm film was silent, and could rented for 75 cents.

AnimationDavid Hand (M.L.S. Mickey driving down the street in a taxi and yelling "taxi" -cars pass him - two trucks squeeze him between - etc.; M.L.S. Mickey driving down the street in a taxi and yelling "taxi" - Mickey puts on brakes, skids and stops - ties up traffic - hops out and opens door; M.L.S. Car going to music - turns back view = blow out - license pate "O-Heck" gag; C.U. Car - salesman pouring stuff into radiator, car watches, etc.)
Les Clark (M.C.U. Dignified old pig standing on curb yells "taxi", whistles and motions; M.C.U. Mickey holding door open - pig gets in - weight sags cab down - cop's whistle heard offscreen)
Tom Palmer (C.U. Mickey - cop comes in blowing whistle - bawls Mickey out then lets him go - dialogue; M.L.S. Cab hitting bumps - bounces pig and cab off into mud, pig runs and gets back on chassis - bounces off again, etc.; M.L.S. Mickey and cab - Minnie runs in and stops, out of breath - dialogue - she gets in and drive to left on pan; Salesman dialogue - cut up into different shots)
Ben Sharpsteen (L.S. Mickey drives off - cop blows whistle and traffic shoots by him - tear cops clothes off - Austin between legs; Still scene. Car drives in and parks - bites car in fanny to make it move up - car shoots exhaust in cabs face; C.U. Cab starts to bite car again - Mickey stops it - Mickey looks in cab and discovers pig is gone; M.L.S. Pan. Mickey chasing car - catches up - grabs top - it accordions out - drags him on ground - he runs up pleats like steps and hops into car; L.S.  Still scene - car comes from right - hits rock - chassis stays on scene - body shoots off to left)
Dick Lundy (Bunch of cars - Austin climbs over top lands on Mickey's car - gives razz and off; C.U. Front of car looking back at Mickey - turns and gives sign of relief looks back again and smiles; M.L.S. Mickey starts to pump, it breaks and Mickey is mad - Mickey gets mad - pig comes in - Mickey grabs pig, puts horse over his snout; M.L.S. Cow in pasture - body of car shoots in, lands on cow - cow moos, starts to run with car on body)  

Jack King (Austin - Mickey passes over - shoots exhaust & knocks it off - Austin passes like kiddy car - Austin in mud puddle; C.U. Minnie in cab window - giggles - pulls out accordion and starts to play "The Blacksmith"; M.L.S. Mickey holding hopping up and down on pig - tire gets larger - air goes back into pig - hose pops off - pig shoots into air, etc. accordion gag)

Johnny Cannon (Mickey's car raises fenders like skirts and wades thru mud - goes over bumps and bounces around etc.; Minnie running along sidewalk to left - carries music roll and accordion - waves and yells "Yoo hoo"; M.L.S. Pan Pegleg Pete as salesman - riding bicycle along road - spit gag - sees Mickey - stops - gets off)
Norm Ferguson (C.U. Interior cab - pig bouncing on seat - hits head on top - knocks head into body - head comes out, etc.; Mickey's car hitting bumps - tries to dodge - straddle; Cop walking down sidewalk swinging club and whistling "Wearing of the Green"; M.C.U. Mickey walking down sidewalk beside cab parked in front of fireplug - sees cop coming , gets scared; Mickey shakes hands with little guy, comes in on pan. Cop stops looks and walks off fire plug, etc. Back view of cow running - goofy run on cow - barn comes up on perspective, cow crashes thru - pan inside barn; L.S. Exterior barn at right - chickens and ducks coming out squawking - cow with car on bursts out - move pan - cow runs chasing chickens - other chickens on cow and cab - all crash into silo - feathers fill scene - fall down revealing chickens naked and cow covered with feathers - go off scene - Mickey and Minnie come out of pile of feathers, both covered in feathers - Minnie cackles - Mickey crows and flaps wings - Iris out)
Frenchy Tr'emaudan (C.U. Mickey in cab - meter clicking - hits bump - clicks up extra dollars - hits another bump  & drops back to 45 cents)

Story: Mickey is a cab driver. A pig wants to get a ride in Mickey's Taxi but is too fat. While getting the pig in the cab Mickey is also having trouble with a cop. The ride proves not to be a smooth one and the pig falls out. Meanwhile Minnie needs a ride. However they have a flat tire. The car pump breaks. So an unwilling pig helps Mickey blow up the tire. Pete comes selling pep pills. The pills not only make the car go, but makes it run like crazy leading to accidents involving a cow, chickens and a silo.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze (1963) and Three Stooges Movie Party

The following is an article from Boxoffice magazine dated November 11, 1963.

"How's this for getting a crowd downtown and in a theatre?

"The line up pictured above shows part of the 2,500 persons who came to the Circle Theater in Indianapolis to see 'Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze.' No they didn't pay admission to the Saturday morning affair. It would have been perfect if they had, but the big party did result in many cash customers at the Circle boxoffice.

"It was a Three Stooges Movie Party sponsored by WFBM television station, arranged by B. J. Blankenship, Circle manager, assisted by E.J. Clumb, Greater Indianapolis Amusement Co. general manager an Don Mott, publicist, who worked with Hal Fryer, who conducts a Saturday morning Three Stooges telecast.

"WFBM started the buildup for its Three Stooges Movie Party four weeks ahead of the opening when the station made spot innovations to Three Stooges fans to write in for their complimentary tickets to a special showing of 'The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze' at the circle theater.

"The response was overwhelming according to WFBM officials. They placed a limit of four tickets to a family but the supply was exhausted by the second Saturday. But the hoopla for the big Three Stooges Movie Party was continued with plug promos used throughout the day. The free time thus devoted to the film figured at over $2,000.

"WFBM-TV cameras were on hand to take pictures of activities at the Three Stooges Movie Party. This film was shown on weekend newscasts and later on The Three Stooges program.

"The WFBM Sound of the City radio mikes were also on scene to record exciting moments of The Three Stooges Movie Party.

"Before the showing, there was a stage presentation of by WFBM personalities Harlow Hickenlooper, the Three Stooges Program host; Captain Star and Curley. And showman Matt got into the act when he wound up the stage affair by throwing a pie in the face of Happy Harlow. This is the way the Saturday morning telecast always ends. Mott comments his stage life was short but Happy."

The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze is one of the team's best feature length outings and maybe the best of their post-Shemp films. This film not only serves as a Stooges movie, but it is also a sequel to the classic story of Around the World in Eighty Days. Interestingly it successeds just as well being this as it does as a Stooge movie. In this film a con man (Peter Foster) makes a bet with Phillis Fog III (Jay Sheffield) that he can't repeat the famous trip his great grandfather made without the aid of money. Fog takes him up on this bet, and goes on the trip along with his three servants (guess who). This is actually a quite good story and is very well told.

This film does feature some skits repeated from previous Three Stooges films. However these are perfectly woven into the plot and still work like a charm here. These borrowed skits include the "Ma-Ha" "Ah-Ha" sketch originally from the feature film, Time Out For Rhythm (1941), a running gag involving Curly Joe, becoming literally fighting mad whenever he hears the song Pop Goes the Weasel like Curly did in Punch Drunks (1934), and a lights on and lights off fight scene like in Out West (1947). There are also some great new bits here, including the boy's making Fog's breakfast aboard a moving train and the boys sneaking around in baggage containers. While the wrestling match closely resembles Punch Drunks it does have a new and very funny ending. There is also a great inside joke during the scene in China. Some Chinese men try to brainwash the Stooges, however they end up becoming like the Stooges. These Chinese Stooges give their superiors the typical Three Stooges business. When one of the Chinese Stooges pokes his superiors in the eyes, Moe stops him saying "we don't do that anymore." At this time due to the Stooges becoming a regular part of various kiddie shows, the trio decided to take eye-pokes out of their repertoire so that kids would not imamate such.

This film was directed and produced by Norman Maurer, who was Moe's son in law as well as the writer of many Three Stooges comic books. Maurer would also after the Moe and Larry passed away create an animated TV show for Hanna-Barbera called The Robotic Stooges (1978). The film was cowritten by Maurer and Elwood Ullman (who wrote many of the classic Stooge short subjects for Columbia). This movie had many working titles including The Three Stooges Go Around the World on Eighty Cents, The Three Stooges Go 'Round the Globe on Eighty Cents, The Three Stooges Circle the World on Eighty Cents, Around the World on Eighty Cents, Around the World on Eighty Cents, The Three Stooges Go Around the World on Ninety-Nine Cents, The Three Stooges Go Around the World on $1.98, The Three Stooges Meet Phileas Fog and Merry Go Round the World. The reason for these working titles was that Untied Artists which had released the 1956 movie version of the classic tale were not happy with the original titles for this film.

A review in the Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin stated "A somewhat more complex plot than usual doesn't inhibit the trio's zany knock-down, drag-out antics." The following is an exhibitors review from Boxoffice Magazine (dated Nov. 11, 1963), "A very laugh provoking show. The kids loved every minute of it. Would have been better in color. Played Thursday, Friday, Saturday -C.D. Simmons, Grace Theater, Grace, Ida."

-Michael J. Ruhland    


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Movie Review: The Incredibles 2

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: A

Review: The Incredibles is one of my favorites if not my favorite super hero movies. So naturally I went into this movie with high expectations. Luckily this film was more than worth the wait. I wouldn't say this movie topped the original, but man it was incredibly good.

The thing that makes both this movie and the previous film work so well is that the characters are so real. They are good and amazing heroes, but they are also are human as well. They have their virtues and faults. These faults help make them relatable, and though they are used for humor they are never exaggerated to the point of caricature. For instance Mr. Incredible may not always know what the right thing to do when helping his kids is and this leads to a lot of comedic mishaps. Still he is not your typical sitcom father, that is a complete idiot who can't do anything right. Instead he is a human being, who due to being human, comes across times in his life when he doesn't know what to do. All the other characters are treated with the same amount of respect and believability.

Like the first film, this movie also delves into the theme of what truly is moral, and how these characters react to the injustice around them. However this is one thing which this sequel delves deeper into, and the results are very thought provoking and intelligent, avoiding any easy answers.

Beyond just the characters and themes though this film is fantastic at being a superhero movie. It gives us a great new villain, and some very dark and intense scenes, that like the first film really push what can be done within a PG rating. The villain's motivations themselves are complex and thought provoking making one wonder just how right this character actually is at points. The only real problem with this villain is that I saw who was really behind this, then I should have, since it is quite predictable. Still that is a relatively minor complaint, but it is something the first film did better. The action scenes are fantastic as well. They are very exciting and last just the right length, and therefore never drag on. The humor is also excellent and there were quite a few times I laughed out loud during this movie. The animation is also extremely great and lives up well to the Pixar Standard.

Overall this is a fantastic movie, that should be seen by all fans of animation, Pixar, superheroes and just great movies.

But don't go away we have a short film to review.      


Michael's Movie Grade: B+

Review: Excellent short.

What really works here is the animation. Like in many of the Pixar shorts, the story is told without dialogue. Because of the animation needs to be very expressive and being Pixar it naturally is. The characters are also very likable if not that developed. The story is thought provoking and the ending brings up questions that do not have fully spelled out answers. I want to give as little away of this short as possible, because knowing little about it, made it work all the better for me.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Movie Review: Adrift

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B+

Review: An excellent film that is very well told and often quite intense.

This film is told in a very interesting way. We continually cut back and forth between our main character (Shailene Woody) stuck out at sea, and her meeting and falling in love with the man (Sam Claflin) she traveled with. Unlike what many films would do, there is no hint that the character is recalling what had happened before, and it is doubtful that is what is happing here as she has too much on her plate to reminisce. Rather this is the way the director (Baltasar Kormákur) has decided to tell this story. As such there are no conventional transitions from scene to scene. This filmmaking style is however extremely effective here and never feels jarring, but instead flows perfectly naturally. This is hugely because of the emotion connection between the scenes. These are often contrasting emotions, with the happiness of the love scenes contrasting very well with intense sense of despair in the stranded scenes.

The scenes with our hero stranded are appropriately quite intense. They easily keep one on the edge of their seat. This is often helped with great visual filmmaking, especially the great cinematography from Robert Richardson.

The love story however often feels rather conventional and rushed. This part of the film could definitely have used more time to be fleshed out. However the performances from our two stars make this work very well, and have us still believe the romance.

-Michael J. Ruhland   

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Old Town Music Hall: Vintage Cartoon Festival

This has easily become one of my favorite annual events. Each year at the Old Town Music Hall a selection of classic cartoons from the 1930's play with Animation Historian (and huge influence on me) Jerry Beck hosting. It is always a delight and this year was no exception.

This year's cartoons consisted of Betty Boop's May Party (1933, Betty Boop Cartoon), We're in the Money (1933, Merrie Melodies), The Merry Old Soul (1933, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Cartoon), The Tortoise and the Hare (1935, Silly Symphony), Porky's Double Trouble (1937, Looney Tunes), A Clean Shaven Man (1936, Popeye the Sailor Man), Merrie Mutineers (1936, Color Rhapsodies), Thru the Mirror (1936, Mickey Mouse Cartoon), The Milky Way (1940, MGM Cartoon) and Daffy Duck and Egghead (1938, Merrie Melodies). As many cartoon fans will immediately recognize this is a fantastic selection of films. These are cartoons that I have seen so many times that I know them by heart. Still to see these in an actual movie theater surround by other cartoon lovers makes the whole experience feel fresh and new. Hearing an audience that loved cartoons, but didn't have these memorized audibly reacting to these films was a joy. There were moments when I just couldn't wait to hear them react to my favorite jokes. Again watching these films this way is an important reminder to us cartoon buffs. These are not just silly cartoons, these are an important part of cinema. As such they are meant to be experienced in a cinema setting. As much as I love collecting the DVDs of these shorts (and watching at home during my free time) and catching them whenever they appear on TV, watching them the way they were intended, gives them a completely different feel that every cartoon fan must experience sometime in their lives. So any cartoon fans who are in Southern California, when this festival comes around next year, don't miss it, this is certainty a must see event and one I highly look forward to each year.

As always at The Old Town Music Hall the films were proceeded by musical performances by the very talented musicians John Reed Torres and Bill Field. Much of this was performed on the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ (a massive organ that dates back to 1925). Also before the show was a singalong with such old songs as Mairzy Doats, My Blue Heaven, I've Been Working on the Railroad and My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean. This helped enhance the feel of an old time day at the movies, like the ones were these cartoons were originally seen.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

MLP:FIM Mean 6

This is the last episode before the midseason break. It was written Michael Vogal. He has been writing for the show since season 6 but working on the production end since season 2. The episode was storyboarded by Karine Charlebois (who has been boarding for the show since season 6) and Aynsley King (who has been boarding for the show since season 4).

This is certainly an enjoyable episode. The humor was often pretty good, the animation was great and it does make you wonder what will happen next. On the other hand much of this episode feels like the show has done it before and better. 5 of the mean six, feel like nothing but carbon copies of how the main 6 acted under the influence of Discord in Return of Harmony Part 2. However the jokes weren't as funny here as in the earlier episode. On the other hand the mean version of Twilight is fantastic and simply a great villain. The story here also feels rushed and seems to end abruptly instead of on a real cliffhanger. Overall this is not one of my favorite episodes of the season, but I still enjoyed it.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Movie Review: Oceans 8

Review Written by Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: C+

Review: I will never consider this a great movie, but I did have fun watching it.

What works best about this movie is the humor and the music. The jokes are often quite funny. While few of them are of the laugh out loud variety, these jokes kept a smile on my face through out much of the film. The humor is also very well incorporated into the story, making it all the more enjoyable. While there are too many films out there simply using popular songs to seem hip and cool, this film not only tries that but successeds fantastically. Every time one of these songs come on they match the on screen action perfectly. They also enhance this action and give the film a fun breezy feel. Also helping this movie is the visual filmmaking and great performances from the cast. From the cinematography to the sets this film always keeps a visual interest. A major fault of this film is that the characters are underwritten. The characters are likable and enjoyable but never quite feel real enough for us to fully engage with them. However these actresses give great performances that often command attention, even when their characters don't.

What this film lacks is the excitement that one expects from such a movie. Because we never fully believe the characters, we never get fully drawn into the heist. This leaves little room for suspense and because of this the heist is actually one of the least interesting scenes in the movie.

Still with good humor, performances, use of music and visual filmmaking, I enjoyed this movie, even if does leave a bit to be desired at times.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, June 2, 2018

MLP:FIM Marks For Effort

This is the first one part episode written by Nicole Dubuc (she previously wrote both parts of Shadow Play and School Daze). This episode was storyboarded by Marta Demong (Who started boarding for the show in season 7) and Thalia Thompson (Who has been boarding for the show since Season 5). In this episode the CMC try to get into Twilight's school.

Even if this episode feels familiar it is still very enjoyable. The humor is often quite good (especially from Starlight and the CMC's bad attempts at acting), the animation is excellent and the story is quite charming. The CMC are still very likable here and it is great to see despite how much they have grown since the first season, they are still kids and act like kids. Starlight is fantastic in this episode and I hope they can find more to do with her as the guidance consoler.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, June 1, 2018

Silent Film of the Month: The Great K&A Train Robbery (1926)

Run Time: 53 minutes. Studio: Lew Seiler Productions. Director: Lew Seiler. Producer: Lew Seiler. Writer: John Stone. Titles: Malcom Stuart Boylan. Based on a book by Paul Leicester Ford. Main Cast: Tom Mix, Dorothy Dawn, Tony the Wonder Horse, William Walling, Harry Grippe. Cinematographer: Daniel Clark.

Tom Mix westerns were in many ways anticipating the later Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy and Lone Ranger movies. These were not films out there to make any statements or give us characters full of complexities. These are instead pure escapism. The characters Mix played were always pure good guys. They stood for what's right and always followed the straight and narrow path. Everybody knew in the end Mix would win, and the bad guys would be defeated. Tom was simply what every red blooded American boy wanted to be. He was a hero and a role model for them to look up to. A man who knew what was right and would always end up victorious. While film history has often overlooked Tom Mix's films in favor of the more experimental and groundbreaking films of the era, it is worth noting these movies were extremely popular in their time. In fact in 1927 The Exhibitors Herald named Tom Mix the biggest box office draw in America. Looking at his best films today the reason for this is plain to see. Audiences then as now often preferred pure fun escapism over anything artistically important. These films provided that escapism fantastically and a film like The Great K & A Train Robbery is still tons of fun today.

In this film, Tom Gordon (Tom Mix) is hired by business man Eugene Cullen (William Walling) to capture whoever is behind various train robberies of his gold. Tom believes Cullen's secretary (Carl Miller) is behind the robberies. Therefore he disguises himself as a bandit and tells no one that he is the man hired to help. This creates a complication when he falls in love with Cullen's daughter (Dorothy Dawn). Also helping Tom on this mission is his faithful horse, Tony (played by himself) and old army buddy Harry (Harry Gripp).

This is certainly a film which never takes itself to seriously. Humor is a plenty in this movie. It even shows up in the intertitles ("Burton Holt - Cullen's secretary. If he's a college man - it must have been Vassar"). There is especially plenty of great slapstick with Harry Gripp (for instance him getting dragged across the building by Tony). Also as any Tom Mix western should have, there is plenty of action here. There is little doubt that the action packed climax is tons of fun and excitement here and just helps make this movie a joy to watch. The stunts performed in this movie are especially incredible and breathtaking (Mix is said to have performed all his own stunts). Also worth praising is that the whole film is beautifully shot at Glenwood Springs, Co. This film perfectly captures the visual beauty of that area.

After Tom Mix, the second biggest star in this movie was his horse Tony. Like how Roy Rodgers would have Trigger and Gene Autry would have Champion, Mix had his own horse. This horse was Tony. Tony was an incredible horse, and is remembered today for providing some amazing stunts, that would never be allowed today. Tony was extremely publicized and would become just as much of a household name as Mix. Tony's name would be part of the title of three movies, Just Tony (1922), Oh You, Tony! (1924) and Tony Runs Wild (1926). He would work with Mix through The Fourth Horseman (1932), where he would suffer an injury and retire from movies (though he would live until 1942 (after Mix had passed)). In Mix's movies after The Fourth Horseman Mix would work with a horse appropriately called Tony Jr. As well as films Tony had also been featured as the star of quite a few children's books and comic books, which only helped increase the horse's popularity.  

One exhibitor wrote about this film for the Exhibitors Herald stating, "Best Tom Mix picture I ever played, wonderful scenery. Five reels. - Thos. G. Norton. Town Hall Theater. Aleganny, N.Y. - Small Town Patronage." Another exhibitor wrote, "Another good one from Fox, with Mix doing the things fans like to see him do. Six Reels. Caress Brother, Palace Theatre, Elnora, Ind. - Small Town Patronage."

A movie theater in North Carolina advertised this movie in a very unique way. The theater's manager (James Cartledge) worked with a toy store. The store had an electric toy train on display in its window. The manager decorated this toy with movie stills, window cards and more with the theater name and dates when the movie was playing written on them. The train gathered many people by the toy store's window and when the movie played the theatre was packed.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Resources UsedTom Mix in Flaming Guns by Richard W. Bann.