Classics Review: In Old California

Salutations my fellow movie goers from around the world. Today’s “Classics Review” is an underwhelming film from the early 1940’s starring John “The Duke” Wayne as a pharmacist from Boston named Tom Craig, who arrives in San Francisco set after The Gold Rush concluded. One day, he decides to open up a small pharmaceutical business, until he encounters a local crook. The premise I’m referring to is one of The Duke’s obscure films known as “In Old California.”

In Old California was released in 1942. (same year Roger Ebert, Harrison Ford & Martin Scorsese were born) The film received average reviews from critics and I couldn’t find how much money it made at the box office, sources are unknown.

The following review doesn’t contain any pivotal SPOILERS whatsoever. If you’ve never heard of In Old California before, feel free to read this article. I’ll have you know this is a short review, because this isn’t a grand scale epic or iconic legendary movie from John Wayne’s filmography such as The Searchers, Hondo, Rio Bravo & the original True Grit.

Positive & Negative Elements

Positive: John Wayne did a great job for his performance as a pharmacist.

A few cast members did a solid job for their performances.

Fun Fact: John’s father was a pharmacist in real life, which is the reason why John wanted to work on this film to honor his father’s occupation.

Most of the corny written dialogue made me chuckle in a good way.

Cinematography felt normal without undergoing technical problems.

Costume Designs were accurate enough to portray the time period of post-Gold Rush.

Set Pieces were constructed by set decorators to bring the atmosphere of The West alive.

The film is set in San Francisco after The Gold Rush ended.

John Wayne shows off his fighting skills in a fight scene.

John displays his strength by bending a quarter. He predates American superhero icons with super strength like Spider-Man, minus the red and blue unitard.

My favorite line from a henchmen is “Sweet singin’ coyotes!” I’m giving this bit an Extra Point for making me laugh out loud.

A climatic chase scene kept me busy to see The Duke in action on horseback as he flees from his enemies.

Negative: An early romance unexpectedly occurred between a The Duke’s sidekick and a woman. Yeesh! I dislike early relationships as a cliche!

As the film transitions to a forest scene, an obvious matte painting is visibly displayed in the background. I’ll give this con a pass, due to the fact C.G.I. wasn’t around back then.

The film suffered from a bad case of padding, the main conflict doesn’t commence later on. When I first read the synopsis on Amazon Prime, I expect the Inciting Incident to start early not make me wait.

Even the pacing is slow for an hour and a half movie!

The Final Verdict: B-

All I can say is In Old California is not a bad picture, just an average western lacking a Three Act Structure as it’s supposed to pinpoint plot elements for the audience to understand what’s going on from point a to point b. At first, I almost labeled it as a disappointment, thanks to The Duke’s charismatic performance as Tom Craig, I find it kinda enjoyable to watch. If you’re a fan of Westerns or John Wayne movies, go give this one a try.

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