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Image Entertainment presents
Under Fiesta Stars (1941)

"You know, if I were you, I think I'd be ashamed of myself."
- Gene (Gene Autry)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: January 20, 2004

Stars: Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Carol Hughes, Frank Darien, Joe Strauch Jr.
Other Stars: Pauline Drake, Ivan Miller, Sam Flint, Champion
Director: Frank McDonald

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence)
Run Time: 01h:04m:36s
Release Date: January 20, 2004
UPC: 014381400823
Genre: western

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- D+C-C- B

DVD Review

Some of Gene Autry's dozens of westerns for Republic were surprisingly complex and often filled with classic country tunes. This, unfortunately, is not one of those. Simple in narrative and improbable in its characters, it's definitely one of the lesser efforts from the Autry machine.

Gene and sidekick Frog Millhouse (Smiley Burnette) are working at a rodeo when they get word of the death of Gene's stepfather. On returning home, they discover that Gene has inherited a half interest in a mine, together with Barbara Erwin (Carol Hughes). While Barbara is broke and hot to sell, Gene wants to keep operating the mine for the benefit of the rancheros driven out of business by the Dust Bowl. Barbara can't have this, so she goes to shyster lawyers Arnold (Ivan Miller) and Fry (Sam Flint) to encourage Gene to sell. What she doesn't know is that their idea of "encouragement" includes homicide.

There's really not much at all to the plot here, and even a B story is dispensed with. As a result, this is short even for a B movie, and at that is well-padded with rodeo stock footage. There is some comic business between Gene and Barbara about dividing the house down the middle, as well as some cute pratfalls by Burnette. A recurrent theme in the picture is misogynism, with Barbara and her friend Kitty Callahan (Pauline Drake) being crassly manipulative for their own financial wellbeing. Even Gene gets into the act, singing a song about how worthless woman are.

This picture is notable for introducing the character of Tadpole, Frog's little brother (Joe Strauch, Jr.). He and Burnette engage in some Three-Stooges-style slapstick that's pretty amusing. Strauch had also appeared in a couple Our Gang comedies before showing up in six pictures with Burnette. Hughes was coming off of a stint as Dale Arden in the serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940), but she's pretty stiff here. She's not helped by the script that gives her an implausible change of heart. But the finale is indisputably exciting, as Gene takes on a band of ruffians at the mine (actually Bronson Canyon/Caverns, of course).

The songs are pretty forgettable this time around:

The Man on the Flying Trapeze
Keep It in the Family
Purple Sage in the Twilight
I've Got No Use for Women
When You're Smiling
Under Fiesta Stars

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This seems to be an assemblage of two different prints; some sequences are soft, dupey and over-contrasty, while others look just fine. As a result, this disc doesn't look nearly as sparkling as most entries in the Gene Autry Collection. Other than that, however, the condition of the print is acceptable. The finely-checked shirts are the main problem area with the transfer, as usual.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 English mono suffers from the expected crackle, noise and hiss of a film over 60 years old. Music is a bit on the thrill side, with little bass presence. The gunfire in the mines has a thunderous sound, but again low bass is missing. Dialogue, however, is quite clear throughout. It's acceptable for what it is.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 6 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Radio show
  2. still, poster and lobby card galleries
  3. presskits
  4. production documents
Extras Review: The disc features the usual goodies, beginning with the intros from Melody Ranch Theater (1987) by Autry and Pat Buttram. It's clear that neither of them remembers anything about the picture, and you can see them vamping madly to fill the additional time created by the short running time. Buttram also talks about the hard times of being a cowboy sidekick. An August 24, 1941 broadcast of the Melody Ranch radio show, complete with a rendition of Cool Water is the other featured extra. A short bio and complete filmography for Strauch are included, as are production notes, a ton of posters, stills and lobby cards and both American and UK presskits. The last goodie is an interesting exchange of telegrams insisting that the script be changed to accommodate the new title, which was decided upon two days after shooting began!

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

A mediocre effort from Autry, with an iffy source print. The extras are still copious, however, but all other than diehard Autry fans can safely pass this one.


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