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Image Entertainment presents
Guns and Guitars (1936)

"Do you solemnly swear to uphold the laws of this county? Then get your horses!"
- Gene Autry

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: January 18, 2006

Stars: Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Dorothy Dix
Other Stars: Earle Hodgins, J.P. McGowan, Tom London, Champion
Director: Joseph Kane

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (cowboy violence)
Run Time: 00h:57m:53s
Release Date: October 25, 2005
UPC: 014381219623
Genre: western

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

This western from 1936 is not one of Gene Autry's better offerings. The songs are mostly forgettable, and they're certainly not in the massive quantities found in that year's The Singing Cowboy.

Gene is once again part of a medicine show along with Frog Millhouse (Smiley Burnette), in support of "Doctor" Parker (Earle Hodgins). When they reach Colima County, Texas, they get involved in a squabble over a quarantine of sick cattle from a neighboring county. Pious politician Morgan (J.P. McGowan) secretly has bought up sick cattle and has his henchmen herd them through Colima County to reach the railhead and sell them to the unsuspecting, caring little about infecting the local livestock. When Morgan arranges for the murder of the Colima County sheriff, Ed Miller (Jack Rockwell), Gene finds himself simultaneously a candidate for sheriff and framed for the murder of Sheriff Miller. Dorothy Dix provides the romantic interest as Miller's niece Marjorie.

Those following the series of DVDs in the Gene Autry Collection will recognize this plot; it was loosely remade only three years later as Home on the Prairie, with the addition of an elephant to the plot and an equally pedestrian selection of tunes. There are a few good scenes here, such as the unmasking of a fraudulent veterinarian by Dr. Parker, which gives a supporting character an unusual amount of participation in contrast to the usual total domination by Gene and Frog in other films. Gene uses his wits to deal with the bad guys as much as his fists and six-shooters, which may disappoint those looking for western action, 1930s-style.

The action is fairly straightforward, and there's little notable or memorable about the various setpieces. Dix is fairly colorless and doesn't get much to do. The supporting band with a variety of veteran musicians does have a good sound to it, with at least vigorous performances of the songs that don't have much else to recommend them. The one standout is Smiley's comic song, I've Got Fine Relations, as he lists the parade of horrors that passes for his family tree. It's cute and the best bit of comic relief that he gets in this picture.

The songs are:

I've Got Fine Relations
Cowboy Medicine Show
Guns and Guitars
Dreamy Valley
Guns and Guitars (reprise)

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: The restored picture looks fine, although it has heavy grain that sparkles a bit in places. Minor nicks and damage don't detract from the viewing experience. In places the picture seems a little soft and dupey, signalling a likely use of later-generation source materials.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono sounds fine, with moderate crackle and hiss as one would expect to find on a 1930s optical soundtrack. Range is fairly limited, again a problem with the source materials rather than the transfer. It sounds better than old 78s but one can't expect high fidelity on such a picture.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 5 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Radio show
  2. Original Review
  3. Essay on Gene's guitar
  4. Still, lobby card and poster galleries
Extras Review: This volume of the Gene Autry Collection contains the usual panoply of goodies, starting with the 1987 reminiscences on Melody Ranch Theater. Once again, the film runs short so Gene and Pat Buttram wander into other territory, such as Smiley's career and death, comparisons of the old medicine show to modern television and a discussion of some of Gene's innovations in the western movie genre. It's one of the better segments released so far on DVD. Melody Ranch hadn't yet started to air on the radio in 1936, so one of the early programs, from January 21, 1940 is included here instead. Where the movie falls short in songs, this episode picks up the slack with a bunch of classic tunes performed live. There's also a story about some evil night riders that Gene is combating, to give some adventure to the program.

An enthusiastic review from December 22, 1936 indicates the reviewer liked the picture a good deal more than I did. An interesting set of essays looks at Gene Autry's Martin D-45 guitar, and another one describes the unique relationship between Gene and the town of Kenton, Ohio. There are filmographies for Gene and Smiley, a good set of production notes, press kit excerpts, eight stills, 20 lobby cards, and a handful of posters, too. In all, the extras are more worthwhile than the feature this go-round.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

A weak entry in the Autry canon, with the usual attractive restored transfer and mound of extras.


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