The Lone Ranger
The Lone Ranger 1956
The more I look into the history of the Lone Ranger, the more I question my decision to include the Lone Ranger in my list of comic book heroes but not Zorro. They’re both period heroes that hide their identity behind masks. Neither one have super powers, they only have their trained fighting abilities to help them out, they also have their calling cards, with Zorro’s slashed Z and the Lone Ranger’s silver bullets. Also, neither one were originally comic books; Zorro started out as a serialized pulp novel while the Lone Ranger began as a radio drama. The one thing I can fall back on is that while Zorro transitioned into films well before it made it into a full fledged comic book in the late 40’s, the Lone Ranger became a comic strip in the late 30’s which were collected into comic books in the 40’s and eventually included original stories all before its first feature length film in 1956. This came out near the end of the long running TV show and included the two main stars of the series. I’m not familiar with the show myself, but I would imagine that it follows a fairly similar format as this film does. For the most part, it was a fun enough film that didn’t have anything wrong with it per se, but neither did it ever stand out as a great film.
Something else that this era of filmmaking tends to have an issue with, especially for Westerns, is the portrayal of Native Americans. Often they are shown as bloodthirsty savages that would just as soon scalp a cowboy as they would light a peace pipe with them. But aside from the broken English that they speak, they are portrayed relatively fair in this film. There’s one of the braves who is more aggressive towards the White Man and is named Angry Horse, but it’s also established several times that it’s the White Man who keeps breaking their treaties and promises. Their tribe can only be pushed so far until it’s time to push back. The tribe’s chief Red Hawk is reasonable towards the Lone Ranger and Tonto, but is also wary of them since there is someone trying to blame their tribe for attacks on the cattle of the local ranchers. Even Tonto gets a chance to hold his own during one of the fights, unfortunately it’s one where he’s greatly outnumbered and almost gets strung up before the Lone Ranger comes to his rescue and shoots the rope in classic gunslinger fashion.
There are quite a few interesting points about his character when compared to the more recent Lone Ranger film, though the recent one is extremely forgettable. Here, he is never once seen either without his mask or outside of a costume. Both films also involve a secret silver mine, though this one has a much simpler plan surrounding it. Here, Kilgore uses a cattle drive as a front to transport dynamite that he somehow tries to pull off as thunder to the local tribe. But he does have another part of his plan where his men actually do put on redface and pose as members of the tribe to frame them for killing the cattle. Clayton Moore handles the role of the Lone Ranger rather well, considering he’s had several years of experience in the role. He also was great when he donned his old prospector costume and plays on the sillier side of things, like when he questions a rodeo cowboy and his trick lasso. He gets right up next to the guy while the lasso encircles them both and only gets tangled up as he tries to leave.
The action beats are mostly few and far between, there is the big fight scene with several of Kilgore’s men and Tonto, though that’s rather one-sided. Later on, there’s also a one-on-one fight between Angry Horse and the Lone Ranger. Angry Horse has convinced some of the tribe to kidnap Kilgore’s daughter in retribution and the Lone Ranger has to best him in combat, or something along those lines. There’s also a bit of a mystery plot as the Lone Ranger and Tonto have to discover Kilgore’s entire plot. They enlist the help of Rodriguez who joins Kilgore’s men to help with the cattle drive. Unfortunately, while keeping an eye out for anything unusual to report back to them, he is basically caught overhearing about the TNT. But instead of just killing him right there, it follows him later that evening at the inn. He hears a knock on his door, which he keeps in front of him as he opens it, and is shot through the wall. Considering the present day perception of this series being aimed at children, it ends up being a more mature filmmaking choice that works quite well. But in the end, it still feels relatively simplistic. There are some nice strides towards cultural sympathy towards the Native tribes while still perpetuating the stilted dialogue. The movie has elements of a mystery, a western, and hints of a superhero or at least vigilante, but it only covers each of those genres superficially. It doesn’t do anything particularly wrong, but it also doesn’t do anything particularly well either. And for the record, it is for the moment available to watch on Hulu. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.