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Image Entertainment presents
Gaucho Serenade (1940)

"I wish I'da dropped that big one in the lake. Brides has always been a jinx to me."
- Frog Millhouse (Smiley Burnette)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: October 20, 2003

Stars: Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, June Storey, Mary Lee
Other Stars: Duncan Renaldo, Smith Ballew, Wendell Niles, Champion, The Velascos, Jose Eslava's Orchestra, Clifford Severn Jr., Lester Matthews
Director: Frank McDonald

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence)
Run Time: 01h:07m:36s
Release Date: September 30, 2003
UPC: 014381399028
Genre: western

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BB-A- C+

DVD Review

Despite the suggestions of the title, this Gene Autry B-movie has nothing to do with gauchos, Argentina, or the pampas. It's just the title of one of the many songs crooned on this engaging road trip across America, one of the more unusual entries in the Autry catalog. Gene (as himself) and Frog Millhouse (Smiley Burnette) are rodeo cowboys stuck on the East Coast after the promoter absconds with their money. With a beat-up old car pulling their horses, they try to make their way back out west, with three stowaways: Ronnie Willoughby (Clifford Severn Jr.), an English boy looking for his father; Joyce Halloway (June Storey), a runaway bride; and her little sister Patsy (Mary Lee). There's plenty of comedy, music, action, and even a jail break to keep the interest of the kids who idolized Autry.

Many of the usual suspects are on hand, led by regular sidekick Burnette. Poor Champion only gets out of his horse trailer in a couple of brief scenes, and June Storey makes her ninth appearance as Gene's love interest. Duncan Renaldo, who would later win fame as the Cisco Kid on television, manages fourth billing despite only about a minute of screen time as a rancher seeking to organize others against the Western Packing monopoly. Character actor Hank Worden (best known today as the senile room service waiter in the second season of Twin Peaks) has a funny bit as a farmer who picks up the Halloway sisters.

The cheap budget doesn't allow for much local color for the cross-country trip, though. A few signs purportedly along Route 66 accompany generic shots and all of the scenes are surely shot on Republic's lot. What is interesting is the backstory: Ronnie Willoughby's father, unbeknownst to him, has landed in San Quentin, framed for embezzlement by Western Packing. The company officials send a telegram to London to the boy to summon him so that they can get Ronnie into their clutches and keep the father's mouth shut. This not only leads to a pretty enjoyable chase across the country, of which the pursued are all entirely unaware, but Autry unintentionally triggering a jailbreak from San Quentin! The result is charming and amusing, with the comedy relief far better than usual. Storey also has some amusing interaction with her intended, Buck Benson (Smith Ballew), who seems to have Western stardom on his mind more than marriage.

Just about all of the leads except the Englishmen get at least one song, including Smiley and the huge-voiced teen Mary Lee. Songs include:

Headin' for the Wide Open Spaces
Give Out With a Song
A Song at Sunset
Gaucho Serenade
Wooing of Kitty McFuty
The Singing Hills
Keep Rolling Lazy Longhorns

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: The full-frame black-and-white picture looks pretty good overall. The source print is fairly clean, with only occasional speckling. However, it tends to be rather soft and slightly dupey at times. The titles display an annoying telecine wobble, but that clears up shortly thereafter. Textures are acceptable, as are black levels. There are some rainbows and moire effects on display at times.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: For a 1940 "B" western, the soundtrack is amazingly clean and fresh-sounding, without any hiss or noise at all. The library score has a somewhat tinny sound, but the songs have decent depth and presence. There's very little bass, of course, but considering the period and the budget, this sounds extraordinarily good.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 7 cues and remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Robin Hood of Texas
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Radio show
  2. Poster and still galleries
  3. Press kit materials
  4. Trivia and movie facts
Extras Review: As usual for the Gene Autry Collection, there are quite a few interesting extras. First is the 1987 reminiscence about the film featuring Autry chatting with Pat Buttam on Melody Ranch Theater. This gets off to a rocky start with Autry babbling incoherently for a while, but eventually he gets on track. A set of production notes and trivia are supported by copies of contracts for some of the players, a set of stills and posters, and excerpts from the pressbook among other materials. But the best extra is an unedited broadcast of Melody Ranch from June 2, 1940 (25m:43s), featuring the ads for Gaucho Serenade and Doublemint gum. There's plenty of Western action here, as well as several classic Autry tunes.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

A better Autry offering than usual, with some decent comedy relief and good songs. The print is clean and the sound excellent, but the video transfer has some mild issues. Plenty of extras, as usual for the Gene Autry Collection.


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