The enterprising Olive Films continues to roll out DVD and Blu-ray releases of movies in the Republic Collection, a treasure trove encompassing not only films produced by the lively Poverty Row studio Republic but also movies with quasi-independent pedigrees: productions from Milton Sperling's United States Pictures, originally released through Warner Bros. (e.g., Raoul Walsh's Pursued); some Stanley Kramer productions initially released through Columbia or United Artists (High Noon); gems from Enterprise, a consortium of left-leaning artists under the unlikely umbrella of ultra-right-wing MGM (Force of Evil, Body and Soul); and Pine-Thomas productions originally released by Paramount (Run for Cover, The Lawless) ... which, coincidentally, is the corporate entity now harboring the Republic Collection.
To be sure, Olive also has brought out some actual Republic movies—John Ford's Rio Grande, the final entry in his cavalry trilogy (after the non-Republic Fort Apache and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon), and Nicholas Ray's mind-blowing, gender-bending, McCarthy-era Western Johnny Guitar. And most recently, they've dipped into the ... swamp or reservoir, take your pick ... of program pictures that were the studio's mainstay (along with Saturday-matinee serials) from the mid-Thirties into the Fifties. Swing wide the corral gate to welcome four late-Thirties entries in the "Three Mesquiteers" series: Overland Stage Raiders, Red River Range, The Night Riders, and Three Texas Steers. Here's what I wrote about one of them, a decade or so ago, for Amazon.com:
It's incredible that, mere months before his breakout role in Stagecoach, John Wayne should have been working on Saturday-matinee fodder like Republic's "Three Mesquiteers" series. To be sure, by Poverty Row standards the Mesquiteers pictures were well above average, and their headlong pace ensured that no kid got bored. But being dragooned into co-stellar partnership with Ray "Crash" Corrigan and Max Terhune was a career low. (Wayne's character, Stony Brooke, stood in the same relation to Corrigan's Tucson Smith and Terhune's Lullaby Joslin as George Clooney's Ulysses to his partners in O Brother, Where Art Thou?: he seemed to be "the only one with the capacity for abstract thought.")
And speaking of careers, Overland Stage Raiders is infamous for being the last credit the legendary Louise Brooks ever had. Less than a decade earlier she ruled the German Expressionist screen in G.W. Pabst's Diary of a Lost Girl and, as Lulu, Pandora's Box. Hollywood didn't know what to make of Brooks pre-Pabst, and they didn't even try afterwards. Still, the lady is on record as having found her last leading man a dreamboat.
But really: a Western called Overland Stage Raiders that lacks a stagecoach? What they call a "land stage" is actually a bus, and within minutes it's been supplanted by a couple of airplanes. There's also a train, and a train robbery—that is, they steal the train. And that's not even counting a cattle drive, a midair holdup, and several gunfights. Did we mention the headlong pace?