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Classic Coming Attractions by Barrie Maxwell

Barrie Maxwell - Main Page

The 100th Column: Roy Rogers, Reviews, and New Announcements

Welcome to the 100th Classic Coming Attractions column. This time out, I'm featuring a profile of Roy Rogers, 2011 being the 100th anniversary of his birth. A number of brief reviews of different companies' holdings of his films available on DVD are included (particularly 13 titles available from VCI and 20 titles from Alpha) as is a complete filmography. In keeping with this western theme, I also have reviews of a number of recent DVD and Blu-ray western releases: The Comancheros (BD from Fox); Wild West Collection: Rio Conchos/Take a Hard Ride (DVD from Shout! Factory); The Phantom Empire and The Gene Autry Show: The Complete First Season (both DVD from Timeless Media Group); Vera Cruz (BD from MGM); and Big Jake, Rio Lobo, and A Man Called Horse (all BD from Paramount).

Non-western classic reviews include The Prize, Toward the Unknown, The Woman on the Beach (from the Warner Archive), Fate Is the Hunter (from Twilight Time), The Way to the Stars (from VCI), The Song of Songs/This Is the Night (from TCM and Universal); Night Flight (from WB); and Chicago Confidential (from the MGM MOD program). I also have a few comments on the latest incarnation of Marx Bros. releases (Animal Crackers, Cocoanuts, Duck Soup, Horse Feathers, and Monkey Business - all from Universal).

As usual too, I have the latest classic release news and the new announcements database has been updated accordingly. Note that in honour of Roy Rogers, I've also updated the westerns new announcements database as well.


Roy Rogers

Roy Rogers was born Leonard Slye in Cincinnati, Ohio on November 5, 1911. A poor farm boy as a youngster, he moved to California in 1929 seeking a better life as an entertainer based on his mainly self-taught skills as a singer, yodeler, guitar player, and square dance caller. He eventually helped form a group called The Rocky Mountaineers which in time became The Sons of the Pioneers.

Hollywood beckoned and under his original name, his first screen appearance was in a Thelma Todd/Patsy Kelly 2-reeler for Hal Roach (Slightly Static, 1935). He had parts often as a member of the Sons of the Pioneers in feature films at several studios, including Columbia, Warner Bros., Liberty, Paramount, and Republic before settling in permanently at the latter in 1936. Rogers was billed as either Leonard Slye or Dick Weston in his first films at Republic, at least a couple of which were Gene Autry westerns. It was in 1938's Under Western Stars that he first starred and was billed as Roy Rogers. Eventually he made Roy Rogers his legal name.

During the first half-dozen years that Roy was at Republic, Gene Autry was king of the studio and his films featured the bulk of the musical numbers. Roy sang a bit in his films, but most of these early efforts had plenty of action and were well orchestrated by veteran director Joe Kane. A number of them featured Roy playing a historical figure such as a young Buffalo Bill or Bill Hickok. Even more to Roy's advantage was the presence of Gabby Hayes as his sidekick. In 1940, Roy had a supporting role in one of Republic's rare big-budget A westerns - Dark Command, which starred John Wayne and was directed by Raoul Walsh.

Once Gene Autry entered military service in 1942, the Rogers westerns became the Republic singing cowboy showcases with some of the films even becoming elaborate musicals. Roy's costumes started to reflect that elaborateness too. Dale Evans teamed with Roy in The Cowboy and the Senorita (1944) and would eventually make more than two-dozen films with him. The pair married in 1947, after Roy's first wife died.

With World War II over and with Gene Autry back for only a short while before leaving Republic for Columbia in 1947, the Rogers films received above average budgets for B westerns. Beginning in 1947, most were filmed in Trucolor with running times of from 67 to 75 minutes. William Witney handled most of the direction and for the most part the action quotient was upped over that of the previous 3 or 4 years. Andy Devine was frequently co-starred in these entries.

Roy's last Republic western was Pals of the Golden West. Thereafter he concentrated on his Roy Rogers Show TV series that ran for 100 half-hour episodes from 1951 to 1957. He did a couple of films with Bob Hope (Son of Paleface in 1951 and Alias Jesse James in 1959) and his last feature film appearance was as the star of 1975's Mackintosh and T.J. Roy Rogers was living in Apple Valley, California in 1998 when he died on July 6, aged 86. Dale Evans would survive him for almost 3 years before her death in early 2001.


Roy Rogers Feature Film Filmography
Title Year Director Company DVD?
Old Homestead, The 1935 William Nigh Liberty Yes. Alpha
Tumbling Tumbleweeds 1935 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Image
Gallant Defender 1935 David Selman Columbia Yes. Comet Video
Mysterious Avenger, The 1936 David Selman Columbia No
Song of the Saddle 1936 Louis King WB Yes. Comet Video
Rhythm on the Range 1936 Norman Taurog Par Yes. Universal
California Mail 1936 Noel Smith WB Yes. Comet Video
Big Show, The 1936 Mack V. Wright Republic Yes. Multiple
Old Corral, The 1936 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Old Wyoming Trail, The 1937 Folmer Blangsted Columbia Yes. Comet Video
Wild Horse Rodeo 1937 George Sherman Republic Yes. Multiple
Old Barn Dance, The 1938 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Under Western Stars 1938 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Billy the Kid Returns 1938 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Come On, Rangers 1938 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Shine On, Harvest Moon 1938 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Rough Riders' Round-Up 1939 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Southward Ho 1939 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Frontier Pony Express 1939 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
In Old Caliente 1939 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Wall Street Cowboy 1939 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Arizona Kid, The 1939 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Jeepers Creepers 1939 Francis McDonald Republic Yes. Multiple
Saga of Death Valley 1939 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Days of Jesse James 1939 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Dark Command 1940 Raoul Walsh Republic Yes. Lionsgate
Young Buffalo Bill 1940 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Carson City Kid, The 1940 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Ranger and the Lady, The 1940 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Colorado 1940 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Young Bill Hickok 1940 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Border Legion, The (aka West of the Badlands) 1940 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Robin Hood of the Pecos 1941 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Arkansas Judge 1941 Francis McDonald Republic Yes. Multiple
In Old Cheyenne 1941 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Sheriff of Tombstone 1941 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Nevada City 1941 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Bad Man of Deadwood 1941 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Jesse James at Bay 1941 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Red River Valley 1941 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Man from Cheyenne 1942 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
South of Santa Fe 1942 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Sunset on the Desert 1942 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Romance on the Range 1942 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Sons of the Pioneers 1942 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Sunset Serenade 1942 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Heart of the Golden West 1942 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Ridin' Down the Canyon 1942 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Idaho 1943 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
King of the Cowboys 1943 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Song of Texas 1943 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Silver Spurs 1943 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Man from Music Mountain, The (aka Texas Legionnaires) 1943 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Hands Across the Border 1944 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Cowboy and the Senorita 1944 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Yellow Rose of Texas, The 1944 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
Song of Nevada 1944 Joseph Kane Republic Yes. Multiple
San Fernando Valley 1944 John English Republic Yes. Multiple
Lights of Old Santa Fe 1944 Frank McDonald Republic Yes. Multiple
Brazil (cameo) 1944 Joseph Stanley Republic Yes. Multiple
Lake Placid Serenade 1944 Steve Szekely Republic Yes. Multiple
Hollywood Canteen (cameo) 1944 Delmer Daves WB Yes. WB
Utah 1945 John English Republic Yes. Multiple
Bells of Rosarita 1945 Frank McDonald Republic Yes. Multiple
Man from Oklahoma 1945 Frank McDonald Republic Yes. Multiple
Sunset in El Dorado 1945 Frank McDonald Republic Yes. Multiple
Don't Fence Me In 1945 John English Republic Yes. Multiple
Along the Navaho Trail 1945 Frank McDonald Republic Yes. Multiple
Song of Arizona 1946 Frank McDonald Republic Yes. Multiple
Rainbow Over Texas 1946 Frank McDonald Republic Yes. Multiple
My Pal Trigger 1946 Frank McDonald Republic Yes. Multiple
Under Nevada Skies 1946 Frank McDonald Republic Yes. Multiple
Roll On Texas Moon 1946 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Home in Oklahoma 1946 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Out California Way (cameo) [TC*] 1946 Lesley Selander Republic Yes. Multiple
Heldorado 1946 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Apache Rose [TC] 1947 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Hit Parade of 1947 1947 Frank McDonald Republic Yes. Multiple
Bells of San Angelo [TC] 1947 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Springtime in the Sierras [TC] 1947 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
On the Old Spanish Trail [TC] 1947 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Gay Ranchero, The [TC] 1948 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Under California Stars [TC] 1948 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Eyes of Texas [TC] 1948 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Melody Time 1948 Ben Sharpsteen Disney Yes. Disney
Night Time in Nevada [TC] 1948 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Grand Canyon Trail [TC] 1948 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Far Frontier, The [TC] 1948 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Susanna Pass [TC] 1949 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Down Dakota Way [TC] 1949 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Golden Stallion, The [TC] 1949 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Bells of Coronado [TC] 1950 William Witney Republic Yes. Lionsgate
Twilight in the Sierras [TC] 1950 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Trigger Jr. [TC] 1950 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Sunset in the West [TC] 1950 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
North of the Great Divide [TC] 1950 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Trail of Robin Hood [TC] 1950 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Spoilers of the Plains 1951 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Heart of the Rockies 1951 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
In Old Amarillo 1951 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
South of Caliente 1951 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Pals of the Golden West 1951 William Witney Republic Yes. Multiple
Son of Paleface [colour] 1952 William Witney Paramount Yes. Paramount
Roy Rogers Show (100 episodes) 1951-57 Frank Tashlin TV Yes. Multiple
Alias Jesse James [colour] 1959 Norman McLeod UA Yes. MGM
Mackintosh and TJ [colour] 1975 Marvin Chomsky Indep. Yes. TVS (DVD-R)
* TC = title filmed in Trucolor

Unlike the Gene Autry films which were made available on DVD in generally impressive versions (first through Image and from now on through Timeless Media Group), the Roy Rogers westerns have a rather checkered DVD history. In the early 1950s when his westerns were made available to television by Republic, truncated versions of about 53 minutes each were created by trimming the original negatives with the trims generally not being retained. Of course prints at the original length still existed and some of those provide the source material for the DVDs that are available. One does have to be careful though as a result, for where multiple DVD versions of a given title are available from the public domain specialists, some will be in the original length while others will reflect the truncated TV versions. Also some of the Trucolor films are replicated only in black and white. Generally the best source material that exists resides with the Republic library which is currently owned by Paramount and has been licensed to Lionsgate. Unfortunately Lionsgate has lacked the inspiration to do anything with its Roy Rogers holdings and the only Lionsgate DVD releases of Rogers films are for Bells of Coronado and Dark Command, both of which are reasonably decent if rather old DVD offerings now. Back in the latter days of VHS when Republic still controlled its own catalogue, it actually issued some nice versions of the Rogers films and some of these remain the best versions out there for home video purposes. Many of the Rogers westerns were featured on TV under the umbrella of Happy Trails Theatre (HTT) which was originally broadcast in the 1980s by TNN with Roy and Dale hosting. A number of these programs were released on DVD by Good Times Video, but even though authorized by the Rogers estate, the image quality is variable, some of the films are cut, and the releases are out of print now anyway. Timeless Media Group (TMG) has reissued 20 of these Happy Trails Theatre versions in a Roy Rogers: King of the Cowboys set authorized by the Rogers estate. I have not viewed this set, but purchaser reviews suggest that the Good Times Video release deficiencies remain. There is a second TMG 2-DVD set also entitled Roy Rogers: King of the Cowboys but apparently not authorized by the Rogers estate. It contains 5 Roy Rogers feature films and 10 episodes of the Roy Rogers Show TV series. The 5 feature films are not the Happy Trails Theatre versions, but the image quality is not very good. The titles included are Apache Rose, The Arizona Kid, Bells of San Angelo, Song of Arizona, and Sheriff of Tombstone. See my earlier review here. The TMG releases are all noted in the table below.

Here are comments on other prolific Roy Rogers DVD sources: Roan Group, VCI, Alpha, Comet Video, and Sinister Cinema. There may be others that are major sources and I welcome additional information to improve the thoroughness of this article.

Roan Group: A popular source of superior laserdisc product, Roan Group moved confidently into the DVD era, but has become apparently moribund of late after having been taken over by Troma. Five volumes of Roy Rogers titles have been released on pressed DVD, with most now out of print. All are worth picking up though as the transfers are quite good (particularly on smaller screens but passable only on large ones), many contain the uncut versions, and have the Republic introductory logos. Volume 1 contains Days of Jesse James (cut), King of the Cowboys, and Roll On Texas Moon. Volume 2 contains Billy the Kid Returns (cut) and Hands Across the Border. Volume 3 contains Home in Oklahoma and Song of Texas (I don't have this volume so can't comment on completeness). Volume 4 contains Heldorado and In Old Cheyenne (cut). Volume 5 consists only of Apache Rose (not in colour).

VCI: This classic title specialist issues most of its releases on pressed DVD, but a number of its B western offerings are available only on DVD-R. There are 8 releases available of Roy Rogers titles, five of which are multiple feature offerings for a total of 13 Rogers titles all told. Courtesy of VCI, I have taken a look at all of them and all are quite workable, again best viewed on smaller screens, though 7 of the 13 titles will tolerate larger screens acceptably. They are the ones underlined in the following list: Come On, Rangers and The Big Show (both contained in The Legendary Singin' Cowboys Classic Westerns Collection, and delivered in cut versions on pressed DVD with the Republic logos missing); Idaho (uncut, on DVD-R and with the Republic logo); Bells of Rosarita (uncut, on DVD-R and with the Republic logo with a British print the apparent source material); Home in Oklahoma (uncut, on DVD-R and with the Republic logo); a double feature on pressed DVD of Under California Stars (uncut, in colour, with Republic logo) and Bells of San Angelo (uncut, in colour, with Republic logo); a double feature on DVD-R of The Arizona Kid (cut, Republic logo missing) and Ridin' Down the Canyon (cut, Republic logo missing); a double feature on DVD-R of Robin Hood of the Pecos (cut, Republic logo missing) and In Old Cheyenne (cut, Republic logo missing); and a double feature on DVD-R of The Far Frontier (cut , not in colour, Republic logo missing) and The Yellow Rose of Texas (cut, Republic logo missing).

Alpha: This company specializes in classic titles and issues all its releases on pressed DVD with very appealing cover art work. 69 Roy Rogers titles are available either as individual releases or as double feature discs. 64 of the 100 Roy Rogers Show TV episodes are also available on 16 releases that each contain 4 episodes (generally titled Roy Rogers and Dale Evans: Volume 1 up to Volume 16). I was not able to view any of the TV show releases, but courtesy of Alpha Video, I have taken a look at 20 of the Roy Rogers feature films they offer. It's common to see Alpha's product knocked for inferior image quality, but that's a generalization not uniformly warranted. Certainly some of their releases do look ragged, but many are quite acceptable particularly given the valuable service that Alpha renders in making many lesser and independently made (often Poverty Row) productions available on pressed DVDs and at an attractive price (frequently about $5 each via the Alpha website). Of the 20 Rogers titles I viewed, 8 were quite acceptable and though best viewed on smaller screens would tolerate watching on larger screens. The other 12 while still workable were slightly soft and scratchy at times and best restricted to small screen viewing. The 8 better ones are underlined in the following list of all 20 titles I looked at: Alpha 5865D double feature of Eyes of Texas (uncut, not in colour, with Republic logo) and Grand Canyon Trail (uncut, not in colour, with Republic logo); Alpha 5857D double feature of Sunset on the Desert (cut, no Republic logo) and Nevada City (cut, has Republic logo); Alpha 5851D double feature of South of Santa Fe (cut, no Republic logo) and In Old Cheyenne (cut, no Republic logo); Alpha 5766D Under Western Stars (uncut, with Republic logo); Alpha 5837D Wall Street Cowboy (cut, no Republic logo); Alpha 5931D double feature of The Cowboy and the Senorita (cut, no Republic logo) and Under Nevada Skies (uncut, no Republic logo but has proper title frame); Alpha 5891D double feature of Ridin' Down the Canyon (cut, no Republic logo) and On the Old Spanish Trail (cut, not in colour, no Republic logo but has proper title frame); Alpha 5874D double feature of Southward Ho! (cut, no Republic logo) and Song of Texas (cut, no Republic logo); Alpha 5873D double feature of Night Time in Nevada (cut, not in colour, no Republic logo) and Man from Cheyenne (cut, no Republic logo); Alpha 4130D King of the Cowboys (cut, no Republic logo); Alpha 4126D Young Buffalo Bill (cut, no Republic logo - marginally the best-looking image of any of the Alpha titles I looked at); Alpha 4147D Bad Man of Deadwood (cut, no Republic logo); and Alpha 4131D The Yellow Rose of Texas (cut, no Republic logo). Note that the latter four releases are all available together attractively packaged in a hinged wooden box identified as Alpha 0913D and entitled Roy Rogers Classics Collection. The table below provides details on Alpha title availability.

Comet Video: Comet is a small company specializing in B westerns and serials since 1979. It has an impressive number of Roy Rogers titles available. Comet's website refers only to DVD, but I suspect the product is DVD-R. Some 87 Rogers titles are listed as being available, many claimed as uncut. I have not been able to view any of the Comet product to assess quality or completeness nor whether the many Trucolor features listed are actually available in colour. The table below provides details on Comet title availability.

Sinister Cinema: Sinister specializes in public domain titles mainly in the area of horror/science fiction and B westerns. Film offerings are on DVD-R as well as VHS. There are 37 Roy Rogers films in the Sinister catalogue, but only 21 of them are available on DVD-R. The others are VHS only. I have not viewed any of the Sinister Cinema releases so cannot comment on completeness, image quality, and the like. The website does indicate the Under Western Stars release as being uncut.

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