The Legend of the Lone Ranger
The Legend of the Lone Ranger 1981
This is the third Lone Ranger movie that I’ve seen so far from this site. I went from the most recent one with Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer in 2013 on back to the original feature film spun off from the TV show back in 1952. Out of the three, this is definitely the worst, and surprisingly it follows a few of the same beats as the 2013 movie as it covers the origin of the Lone Ranger since it was essentially supposed to be a reboot of the story from the 50’s. The big difference is that this film runs an hour shorter. It cast two unknowns in the roles of Tonto and John Reid as well as Christopher Lloyd as Butch Cavendish who was also a character in the 2013 film, likely because they both pull from the same sources. This film also ends with a train heist, though it’s much more truncated as the plan is more interested in kidnapping the president than anything else. But the film lacks action, acting, even much of a score, not to mention that it opened just a month before Raiders of the Lost Ark which was far and away a much better film than this one.
While it’s not something often mentioned on this site, the score for this film was atrocious. In fact, there was barely any score at all. There were merely moments here and there when a soft score would pop up in the background as a sort of scene break, and a country singer would come in to speak-sing a couple lines of narration to give some exposition as to what was going on. The other times score was used was when the well known Lone Ranger theme would pop up, only the first time it was just used to show off Reid’s taming of his horse Silver and absolutely nothing else interesting is going on in the scene. The other two times its used don’t fare much better either. Most of the rest of the film just has no score whatsoever, which doesn’t really help to enhance this type of film.
As far as the acting goes, the lead role of John Reid aka the Lone Ranger went to unknown Klinton Spilsbury, though the studio didn’t like his voice so he was dubbed over by John Keach and it really detracts from the performance. Michael Horse plays Tonto and while he’s not an incompetent character by any means, he’s not really given much to do once he saves Reid’s life after the ambush that killed all of the Texas Rangers except for him and the traitor that sold them out. He even gets captured and almost hanged until Reid comes to his rescue. Another somewhat surprising role was Christopher Lloyd as the main villain Butch Cavendish. But similarly to Tonto, he wasn’t really given much of anything interesting to do. He spends most of his time on screen staring villainously at the camera. His grand plan is to detach the caboose of the Presidential train to kidnap President Ulysses S. Grant and ransom him off for basically the entire state of Texas. But while being kidnapped, he’s treated extremely well with a fine dinner, it’s not that he should have been tied up or abused, it just felt rather nonthreatening and took a lot of weight away from Cavendish as the villain.
There were a handful of action scenes, but for the most part they fell on the uninteresting side of things. There was one impressive stunt where someone fell down in between the two rows of horses pulling a stagecoach and also slid underneath the coach. Though, if the trivia is to be believed, that stuntperson actually got hurt during that stunt. Either during that take or a different one. A much worse action scene was the taming of the horse Silver who was set up as a majestic, wild stallion but when it came to taming the horse, they just blindfolded him and there was about a five minute scene done entirely in slow motion with Reid getting bucked around by the horse. And after he gets knocked off the horse twice, the horse comes up and nudges him. It’s uninteresting, uncinematic, and just plain lazy. It didn’t help that it was followed up by the first instance of the traditional Lone Ranger theme song with Reid wearing his domino mask without much explanation or fanfare.
Overall, there just wasn’t much to hold onto with this movie. The characters were boring and generally unmotivated. The whole silver bullet calling card of the Lone Ranger kind of came out of nowhere. Tonto just pulled them out of his pocket and claimed they were more accurate than regular bullets, though it’s ludicrous to think that just changing a bullet would cause him to go from completely missing the target to getting a perfect bullseye in just one shot. There wasn’t much of the Lone Ranger’s disguises except for one moment where he poses as a priest, but that was mainly just him being covered by loose robes and a hood. There were a few interesting similarities between this film and the 2013 version of the Lone Ranger’s origin like Cavendish as the villain who murdered the entire squad of Texas Rangers including John’s brother. And John’s brother had a wife and kid who he asked John to look after even though they were barely a plot point and I’m not sure if the kid even made an appearance. And while these similarities are likely because they are part of the Lone Ranger’s story from earlier incarnations, the fact that both versions kept these details were slightly interesting and about the only interesting thing about this movie at all. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.