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Image Entertainment presents
Wagon Team (1952)

"Sorry, I don't go for introductions from strange horses."
- Connie Weldon (Gail Davis)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: April 20, 2005

Stars: Gene Autry, Pat Buttram, Gail Davis, Dick Jones
Other Stars: Gordon Jones, Harry Harvey, Henry Rowland, George J. Lewis, John Cason, The Cass County Boys
Director: George Archainbaud

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence)
Run Time: 01h:01m:39s
Release Date: April 19, 2005
UPC: 014381231823
Genre: western

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Although redemption of a good lad gone bad is a frequent theme in the musical westerns of Gene Autry, Wagon Team offers a modest variation on the theme. Sparked by the dangers of a three-pronged pursuit, The Apache Kid (Dick Jones) must come to terms with the damage his life of crime is doing to his family as well as himself.

The Kid is being held in a jail in the Old West, as stage detective Gene seeks to uncover the whereabouts of an Army payroll he believes the young man has stolen. The local marshal, Sam Taplin (Gordon Jones) is out to recover the payroll and then hang the Kid, and hits on the stratagem of letting him escape and following him to the loot. But there's a third player, the gambler Mike McClure (Henry Rowland), for whom the Kid stole the payroll, and he's not about to be deprived of his prize. The Apache Kid must somehow redeem himself without getting himself killed.

That much is fairly standard issue fare, though the use of three different interests converging on the Apache Kid gives it more dramatic tension than one usually finds in a B-Western. For a change, frequent sidekick Pat Buttram is at odds with Gene, since he's after the reward he was due for capturing the Apache Kid in the first place; it's a little odd to see him at cross-purposes with Autry, but it gives his comic antagonism a natural expression that's pretty gratifying. In fact, Buttram is the best thing about the picture, with his comic relief antics much funnier than usual, particularly in his routine about his "cyclone piledriver fist."

Once again, the startling gambit of an apparent Autry-turned-evil that was so effective in Whirlwind the year before is used again, as we first see our hero sharing a cell with the Apache Kid. It's not pulled off nearly as well here, however, since the lack of an action sequence doesn't allow it to be terribly convincing. Autry seems to be going through the motions, though there are some vigorous fist and gun fights sprinkled throughout the one-hour running time. Gail Davis is the leading lady once again, as the Kid's sister Connie, who operates a medicine show along with their father Doc Weldon (Harry Harvey). After having appeared opposite each other half a dozen times or more, Davis and Autry have a comfortable rapport though they don't bother with much in the romance department in this go-round. The rest of the supporting cast is pretty weak, since Rowland doesn't make for a particularly threatening heavy; really, Gordon Jones' scheming marshal seems rather more sinister.

As usual, there are a couple songs, three by Autry and one a solo by the Cass County Boys as part of the medicine show. Gene's signature tune, Back in the Saddle gets trotted out once again, and it's by far the best tune in the picture. The other offerings are In and Out of the Jailhouse, the gospel-tinged I've Been Invited to a Jubilee, and Howdy Friends and Neighbors. The titular wagon team is only window dressing and plays no significant role in the storyline.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Although nearly every entry in the Gene Autry Collection has been nicely restored, the picture on Wagon Team is startlingly good. There's hardly a speckle to be seen on the original full-frame picture. A few occasions of moiré and aliasing are the only significant issue with the transfer, which has a natural greyscale and excellent sharpness and shadow detail. Textures are frequently quite vivid. Very little to complain about here.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono sounds reasonably good as well, though it's not as flashy as the video transfer. It's suitably clean and lacking in hiss and noise, but the range is unsurprisingly limited and a shade on the shrill side. Bass information is substantially lacking, surely a problem with the original audio tracks.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 4 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Radio show
Extras Review: The usual assortment of goodies is present on this entry in the series, starting with the 11m:55s Melody Ranch Theater segments with Autry and Buttram discussing this film, director George Archainbaud's career, Gene's days working in a medicine show and his close call with the Cuban revolution.

Another excellent selection from the Melody Ranch radio show is included. The December 27, 1952 show (29m:35s) features a musical review of the best songs of 1952, with Buttram putting in a comic musical appearance. It's plenty entertaining and a high point of the disc. The film is represented by the trailer only this time around, but there's a healthy assortment of bios and filmographies for Autry, Buttram and Davis, including another clip from her Annie Oakley series, produced by Autry. Complete episodes from this series would make a nice extra on future discs.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

A fairly pedestrian Western, with better-than-usual comedy from Pat Buttram, a particularly sparkling transfer and the usual slew of extras.


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