The Dawn Rider (1935) Review

Director: Robert N. Bradbury

Genre(s): Action, Western

Runtime: 53 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

IMDb Page

This early John Wayne western doesn’t even run an hour, but still manages to be a worthy entry into the iconic actor’s filmography. It’s rough and unpolished, but it gets the job done. The straightforward story is about John Mason (John Wayne) seeking revenge on the man who murdered his father, Dad Mason (Joseph De Grasse), during a heist. There’s very little that could be considered complicated here, it’s just a solid action-packed western movie.

This is one of those micro-budget western films where tough guys bond by beating the shit out of each other. It’s definitely a picture aimed at men, but there is some minor romance thrown into the mix. While John Wayne is clearly the star of the show, one should keep an eye out for Yakima Canutt, the famed stuntman and second-unit director, who plays a villainous saloon owner here.

Other than Wayne and Canutt, a good reason to watch The Dawn Rider is for its plentiful action. It’s not exactly spectacular (I mean, this is a low-budget production and all), but there’s quite a bit of shooting, punching, and chasing crammed into the 53-minute runtime. The highlights include a fist fight on a speeding wagon, which is pretty well-shot for the time (no rear projection here!), and the final punch-up.

If you enjoy western movies for their sweeping, grand scenery and morally-complex plots, The Dawn Rider may not be for you. This is a cheapie actioner made before Wayne struck it big, so keep that in mind. I enjoyed it because of its short length and because it’s fun to see the Duke in a mayhem-filled pre-major-fame role. It’s certainly not boring.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

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