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Image Entertainment presents
South of the Border (1939)

"You hush. I'm gonna adopt my own daddy, and I pick Gene."
- Patsy (Mary Lee)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: November 26, 2003

Stars: Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, June Storey, Lupita Tovar, Mary Lee
Other Stars: Duncan Renaldo, Frank Reicher, Alan Edwards, Champion
Director: George Sherman

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence)
Run Time: 01h:10m:25s
Release Date: March 25, 2003
UPC: 014381400625
Genre: western

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-A-C- B-

DVD Review

Gene Autry starred in many dozens of B-Westerns in the 1930s and 1940s, and in the process managed to become one of the biggest box office draws in the country. This disc, one of the first two of the Gene Autry Collection on DVD, features one of Autry's greatest hits, both in terms of the picture and the title song.

Autry, as usual, stars as himself. With Frog Millhouse (Smiley Burnette), Gene is a special federal agent romancing a senorita in Mexico, Dolores Mendoza (Lupita Tovar). When Gene and Frog get orders to go to the fictional Latin American country of Palermo to stop the overthrow of its government, while masquerading as hands to help Dolores' uncle get some cattle shipped, they get tangled up not only in the revolution, but also foreign agents setting up submarine bases, blonde chanteuses smuggling money and Patsy (Mary Lee), an orphan girl who wants to adopt Gene as her daddy. Oh, and Gene sings a bit too.

As should be obvious from this synopsis, this entry into the series contains enough plot points to fill four or five B-movies, making it quite overstuffed and frankly confusing at times. It's not quite clear why the blonde, Lois Martin (June Storey) hides $200,000 in Gene's suitcase, nor why Patsy thinks stuffing it in turn into her doll is a good idea. The story's just overcrowded for the short running time; either some plots should have been dropped or two reels added, but as it is, with nine songs to boot, it's kind of a mess.

Autry is shucks and wazoo appealing as usual, and Burnette provides some good comic bits. June Storey, frequent Autry leading lady, is entertaining as the blonde who entrances Smiley but has an eye for Autry. Mary Lee, the annoying teen with the enormous voice, actually is a bit restrained here in her first major role; she doesn't quite belt things out as she does in other entries, with the exception of a yodeling episode (yes, this picture's got everything). Also in the cast are Duncan Renaldo (The Cisco Kid) and Frank Reicher (King Kong) appearing as other members of the Mendoza family.

On the whole, though, it's plenty entertaining even if it doesn't make a great deal of sense at times. In addition to a couple reprises of the title song, following are the tunes featured (three of which fall in the first five minutes of the picture!):

Come to the Fiesta
South of the Border
Moon of Mañana
Girl of My Dreams
Goodbye Little Darlin'
The Merry-Go-Roundup
When the Cactus Blooms Again
The Horse Op'ry
The Fat Caballero

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame picture has been well restored. Although there are still some bits of speckling, the film is otherwise in excellent shape. Fine detail is quite good, blacks are solid and vibrant, and the greyscale has a wide range of tones on display. Textures are excellent throughout and shadow detail is also very good. On a few occasions moire strikes very busy patterns, but otherwise video artifacting is only nominal.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Unfortunately the audio isn't quite as good as the picture; there's a fair amount of noise and hiss that seems to point to an optical track that has seen better days. As typical for a 1939 movie with a low budget, the sound isn't terribly impressive, with little bass or presence. The songs however do sound fine other than the persistent noise, which makes the listener feel like he's hearing them on the original 78s.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 9 cues and remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Rovin' Tumbleweeds
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Radio program
  2. Still and lobby card galleries
  3. Production documents
  4. Press kit
  5. Secret coded message
Extras Review: Plenty of extras are added to the package. Autry's 1987 comments regarding the feature from his Melody Ranch Theater program are included, and Autry spins a number of interesting anecdotes about both the song and the movie. In addition to a set of production notes, a nearly-complete windowboxed gallery of stills (set to three Autry songs) and another of the re-release lobby cards, there are also excerpts from the re-release press kit and several of the original production reports (with, on one occasion, 37 scenes being shot in a 16-hour day).

A scant two weeks after this film premiered, Autry's long-running radio show, "Melody Ranch" began running. This 13m:05s pilot episode from December 31, 1939 is also included. There's a lengthy secret message in Morse code, which can be read off the screen, or if you're feeling really proficient in your Morse, you can listen to it. Or, if you're lazy like me, you can just skip to the answer. Finally, there's a trailer for the companion initial release, also from 1939. Not a bad package for what was once considered disposable entertainment.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

An entertaining if overstuffed entry, given an attractive restoration and nice transfer, and a goodly assortment of extras.


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