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“Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”

I’m not sure how I’m going to take this movie, one of the first TV shows I remember is the Black and White Lassie reruns.  I grew up in the era of Benji, which wasn’t my thing.  Give me Lassie, give me Rin Tin Tin, give me something beyond cute.

So, Pal is Lassie as Shep in The Painted Hills.

Should I look at this as a kid’s movie (a sometimes very dark kid’s movie) or a frontier movie?  Take out the dog, and this story would not be out of place as a silent two-reeler.  It is morality tale about the danger of greed and stars a dog and kid, so I think I have to lean towards kid’s movie.

Jonathan Harvey (played by Paul Kelly) has such artificial looking hair, like it is painted on his face rather than grown.  And knowing he is an outdoorsman, the starched quality makes the look even more fake.  There is such an unnatural quality about the color and sets in this movie anyway.  The way I never thought those 60’s westerns like Bonanza and The Big Valley looked anything close to real.

Knowing Lassie is the big star, you can tell some shots are set up just to get the dog in.

There was an extend sequence after the mine building montage where we get a first look at Taylor’s burgeoning greed and paranoia.  It at least explains Taylor’s willingness to attack Pilot Pete a bit better.

Lassie’s jump during the rock climbing sequence reminds me of the Dells.

Of the cowardly ways to kill someone, pushing them off a cliff is way up there.  But Taylor is a man who is intimidated by a dog multiple times in this movie, so cowardly really fits.  Seriously, he tries to threaten a dog and gets taken down by a collie.  Not a ‘vicious’ dog, but a collie.

At least two people involved with this movie, Art (Pilot Pete) Smith and scriptwriter True Boardman, were blacklisted in the ‘50s.  I wouldn’t have thought Lassie would work with Reds.

The amazing thing about Lassie/Pal, isn’t all the tricks and action he can do, but that he can play sick and weak.  That dog is one heck of an actor.

Ann Doran, little Tommy’s mother, also was in Kitten with a Whip and was also a regular in Longstreet.

Isn’t having a dog dig up a dead body in front of a kid a bit twisted of a plot device?

Kids must have had more patience back then.  There are two extend ‘silent’ sequences, Lassie poisoned and the final chase, which I can’t imagine the little ones I know sitting through.

I’d say Taylor’s guilt killed him, not Lassie.  But who’s going to convict a dog?  No one nowhere, not even Texas.

Watch ability: 3 of 5.  Corny, but you could do worse for a kid movie.  And the dog is amazing—carrying several scenes without any humans.  Gets a little dark, what with the killing and poison, but overall not a bad film.

Missing the Riffs: 2 of 5.  Now that I realize how ‘wordless’ many of the scenes are, I’m more impressed by the riffing on this one.

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