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Black Bart

1948 | 4:3 | Color | Quality: Excellent

Dan Druyea

Yvonne DeCarlo

Jeffrey Lynn


Charles Boles (Dan Druyea) and his partner in crime Lance Hardeen (Jeffrey Lynn) are about to be hanged for the audacious crimes of robbing two banks, riding out on stolen horses, and stealing the mayor's wife all in the same day! They are rescued by the third member of their gang, Jersey Brady (Percy Killbride) and make a getaway. The three thieves decide the heat's too much and it's best to split up the loot and go their separate ways, but Lance and Jersey try to double-cross Boles to keep his share. It's Boles who has the last laugh, though, and he settles down while appearing to do quite well as a rancher. At the same time, a mysterious bandit known as "Black Bart" begins robbing Wells Fargo stagecoaches with help from inside information. As luck would have it, one of the stagecoaches Black Bart robs has both Lance and Jersey as passengers - they immediately recognize Bart's real identity and want to horn in on his operation! Complicating matters even more is the traveling companion of Lance & Jersey: the famous and beautiful dancer from Europe by the name of Lola Montez (Yvonne De Carlo). Needless to say, their lives become intertwined from this moment on in a dysfunctional series of events involving duplicity, greed, and a passionate love triangle.

Although the historical Black Bart was indeed named Charles E. Boles as portrayed, the British-born Boles did not conduct his outlaw career as a Zorroesque black-clad horseman. Rather, he hiked to all his holdups and wore a long linen duster with a flour sack over his head. He was also pushing 50 when he began robbing stages. That doesn't take away from Black Bart being an interesting and entertaining movie that rose well above the norm for the standard studio product of its day. Splendidly photographed with a lustrous use of color, it also has a wonderfully dry and laconic wit that adds a touch of verbal eloquence and humor to the proceedings. Clever and effective use of photography as a storytelling medium raises the quality beyond what one might expect for a B picture. For example, as Boles rides into another standard-issue western town, a covered wagon passes in front of the camera, and stencilled on the canopy is "Sacramento," where typically a set of graphic titles might have been superimposed on the screen to identify the setting. This organic introduction looks far better and increases our immersion in the story. Gorgeous Miss De Carlo often portrayed historic figures from Sephora to Calamity Jane to La Castiglione and here Lola Montez - former mistress to Ludwig I of Bavaria. De Carlo's dancing is always a pleasure to watch; this film came only three years after her dazzling debut in 1945's "Salome, Where She Danced" where she played a very similar role. Dan Druyea and the rest of the cast all do very well.

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