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Image Entertainment presents
Sunset in Wyoming (1941)

"So, Mr. Autry, I see through it all now. You're nothing but a fraud and a cheat!"
- Susanna Peabody (Sarah Edwards)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: October 19, 2006

Stars: Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, George Cleveland, Maris Wrixon
Other Stars: Robert Kent, Sarah Edwards, Monte Blue, Dick Elliott, John Dilson, Stanley Blystone, Champion
Director: William Morgan

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence)
Run Time: 01h:06m:25s
Release Date: July 25, 2006
UPC: 014381240122
Genre: western

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+C-C- B-

DVD Review

While the Gene Autry westerns for Republic generally had a satisfying quantity of action, Sunset in Wyoming takes a very different approach. Other than a couple short fistfights and a brief melee in the street, there's very little action. The emphasis instead is on comedy, and a fair amount of political content is present as well.

In a story that could be derived from modern headlines, the people of Midtown, Wyoming are subject to the whims of a big corporation, the Wentworth Lumber Company, which under the management of Larry Drew (Robert Kent) is taking no prisoners and is clearcutting all of Mount Warner, overlooking Midtown's valley. As a result, flooding threatens to wipe out the ranchers in the area. Led by Jim Hayes (Monte Blue), the ranchers are determined to lynch the lumber company employees, but Gene and sidekick Frog Millhouse (Smiley Burnette) intervene, saying they'll try to reason with Asa "Gramps" Wentworth, the president of the company. But Gramps has his own agenda: getting his granddaughter Billie (Maris Wrixson) to drop her interest in Drew. With a series of harebrained schemes, including an effort to get Mount Warner declared a state park, Gramps ends up causing even more trouble for Gene, and things look very bad for the ranchers.

Comedy is up front, and for the most part it's reasonably well handled. Smiley gets to take a bigger role than usual as a result, and he makes the most of the opportunity. Beginning with a comic pie-eating sequence, he also gets into trouble by stocking the intended wildlife preserve with a fake moose and a phony zebra, as well as a genuine lion and black panther. His befuddlement as Gene tries to get him to knock it off through sign language is very well executed. Cleveland, a movie veteran who would go on to play another Gramps on Lassie, is nearly Smiley's equal as he hatches plots while feigning innocence before his granddaughter. There may not be any gunplay, but there's certainly enough laughs to keep most viewers entertained. At the same time, the very lives and livelihoods of the ranchers are threatened.

The politics of the movie are surprisingly liberal, with a strong environmental theme still highly relevant today. The anticorporate attitude smacks of Progressive populism, with Drew's attention to the bottom line and disregard of the consequences against others making him a good candidate for Enron or MCI Worldcom management. There is a rather comically pathetic faith in the government to preserve timberlands as parkland that is rather poignant in retrospect. Old cynics like me need to be reminded every so often that people once believed that government could be a positive thing.

Maris Wrixson had a fairly short career, with highlights being appearances opposite Boris Karloff in the Grade Z pictures The Ape and British Intelligence. She more than fulfills the spunky role called for here, quite the spitfire as she antagonizes Autry from beginning to nearly the end. It's too bad she didn't get to do more films with Autry, since they have a good chemistry, fractious though it may be.

The songs range from a few forgettable ditties about the title state to classic renditions of Casey Jones and Sing a Song of the Saddle.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: The condition of this original full-frame transfer is all over the map. On some reels, the left side of the screen seems to be perpetually out of focus, possibly as a result of uneven shrinkage. A few inserted sequences (nearly ten minutes has been restored to the running time) are obviously later generation and are somewhat dupey. Clearly, there were some issues in producing this restoration. On the other hand, much of the picture looks very good, with nice texture, detail and greyscale. On the whole, it's acceptable under the circumstances but not quite up to the very high standards of most of the rest of the Gene Autry Collection.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono audio is similarly mixed; some reels have extreme hiss, noise and crackle, while about halfway through the racket is quite abruptly eliminated. The songs sound decent, but dialogue is occasionally hard to make out. As usual, don't expect much range or any significant bass.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 5 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Radio show
  2. Presskit
  3. Poster, still and lobby card galleries
Extras Review: The standard Gene Autry Collection extras return on this DVD. Gene and Pat Buttram are particularly chatty in this installment of Melody Ranch Theater, reminiscing about Smiley and Monte Blue. After the first commercial break, they start in on the environmental message of the picture, and it's entertaining to watch these two old codgers going on at length about ecology. There's also some talk of Gene's days working as a radio operator on the railroad, and how Will Rogers encouraged him to get into radio. A much better than average outing. The August 3, 1941 Melody Ranch radio show is here as well, with the standard songs and comedy. Galleries include over 30 stills, five posters and a set of eight lobby cards, as well as a presskit and a variety of production materials (including the call sheets for Smiley's menagerie, and an agreement with MGM for the use of stock footage of lumbering). Finally, there are a set of bios for supporting players Wrixson, Kent, Blue and Cleveland.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

A comic Autry western with its heart in the right place ecologically, the disc restores the full running time, with variable-condition source materials.


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