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Image Entertainment presents
Down Mexico Way (1941)

"I wasn't counting bullets. I was dodging them."
- Frog Millhouse (Smiley Burnette)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: August 31, 2005

Stars: Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Fay McKenzie, Harold Huber
Other Stars: Sidney Blackmer, Joe Sawyer, Andrew Tombes, Murray Alper, Arthur Loft, Duncan Renaldo, Paul Fix, Julian Rivero, Ruth Robinson
Director: Joseph Santley

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence)
Run Time: 01h:16m:57s
Release Date: August 30, 2005
UPC: 014381239126
Genre: western

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B BB+B- B-

DVD Review

Several of Gene Autry's pictures take place south of the border, no doubt in response to the success of his song by that title. The second line of the chorus forms the title and the basis for this 1941 entry in the long-running series of films Autry shot for Republic, his 49th movie in the space of less than seven years. It's a little light on action but tries to make up for it with two comic sidekicks and a bigger emphasis on romance.

In Sage City, the townspeople are excited by the prospect of investing in a new John Wayne picture about the history of the city. Allen (Joe Sawyer) and Flood (Murray Alper) are ostensibly working for producers Gibson (Sidney Blackmer, best known for Rosemary's Baby) and Gerard (Arthur Loft), but they're really part of a scam to cheat the people out of their life savings. When Gene and Frog (Smiley Burnette) catch on to the plot, Allen and Flood have headed down Mexico way to San Ramon. Hot in pursuit, Gene and Frog run into singer Maria Elena Alvarado (Fay McKenzie), and learn that Gibson and Gerard are attempting to get her father, Don Carlos (Julian Rivero) to invest in another picture. But can Gene prove that Gibson and Gerard had anything to do with the fraud back in Sage City?

Although Autry's pictures are usually chock full of action sequences, this one doesn't really push that aspect other than a short gunfight and an elaborate chase sequence in the finale complete with motorcycle cops, which culminates with a fistfight in the back seat of a convertible speeding over mountain roads. Instead, the plot gets more focus than the often rudimentary story that one often finds in these B westerns. Since Gene runs afoul of the Mexican law himself, his situation is significantly complicated, and that's even before you get to the romance, which also is played up more than usual. Fay McKenzie, who would star with Autry a few more times, makes her film debut here overacting quite a bit as a Mexican songstress and a woman who seems to capture Gene's heart.

But McKenzie has nothing on frequent gangster star Harold Huber, who plays the secondary sidekick, Pancho. His portrayal will probably give offense to those sensitive about ethnic humor, for he plays upon Mexican stereotypes to the hilt. However, if you are all right with the politically incorrect, he's nonetheless often pretty funny and his interactions with Burnette are generally entertaining. Another highlight is Ruth Robinson as Mercedes, Maria Elena's duenna, who tends to be a wee bit too encouraging of Maria Elena's trysts with Gene. Although you may note a pattern of Mexicans being portrayed by Anglos here, a few Hispanics (Rivero and frequent bit player Duncan Renaldo) do make an appearance.

The film is notable for one of the biggest moral lapses on Autry's part. Having captured one of Gibson's henchmen, Autry authorizes Pancho and Juan (Renaldo) to terrorize him by throwing knives at him until he talks. Not exactly kosher under the Geneva Convention, if you ask me, and I suppose now we'll see this as an approved technique at Abu Ghraib.

There are quite a few songs this time out, including the obligatory South of the Border as well as a new tune for the picture, Down Mexico Way. The film, oddly enough, opens with a rousing performance of The Beer Barrel Polka. Smiley gets to show off his significant talents on the harmonica in a comic sequence. McKenzie and Autry duet on Maria Elena, which was Autry's most recent hit record. Other tunes include La Cachita, The Cowboy and the Lady, Guadalajara, and A Gay Ranchero.

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 generally looks pretty good. Contrasts sometimes seem a little high, but greyscale is more than respectable. The film stock is rather grainy and occasionally looks a little sparkly, especially in daytime skies. However, the print is in excellent shape and textures and detail are quite attractive.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is relatively clean with only a light modicum of hiss and noise to be heard even near reference levels. The dialogue is clear throughout and the songs sound decent though they're as one would expect lacking deep bass. It's quite acceptable for a film nearly 65 years old.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 8 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Radio show
  2. Galleries
  3. Review
Extras Review: Gene and Pat Buttram continue to reminisce on their 1987 intros to the film when aired on Melody Ranch Theater. They share anecdotes about fellow Republic star John Wayne, who figures by reference in the film though he doesn't actually appear, and Autry recalls the one film that the two did together for television. In a case of obvious vamping to fill a longer-than-usual time slot, Buttram starts to pontificate about Mexican foreign policy, clearly surprising Autry, who doesn't know what to do with his remarks. It's an odd and fairly chatty but less-scripted entry in the series that's worth watching. The Melody Ranch radio show from November 16, 1941, about the time of this film's release, is rather unique. It's presented live from Berwyn, Oklahoma, which on that date changed its name to "Gene Autry" to honor the fact that he had his ranch there. A set of notes explain more about how this odd situation came to be. There are plenty of classic songs on this episode, which is entertaining in its own right and nearly commercial-free.

The more typical extras are also here, though the generally copious galleries are much thinner. There are an approving review from Variety, filmographies for Autry and Burnette, a bio for Burnette and a gallery devoted to him, a set of production notes by Alex Gordon and a weblink to the Autry Estate's website. The closed captioning found on other titles in this series is nowhere to be found.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Another bigger-budget-than-usual outing for Autry from Republic gets the full restoration treatment and some entertaining extras.


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