Friday , March 1 2024
This corny B-Western is a hoot -- and a great companion piece to a bottle of “Ah! Viva Tequila.”

DVD Review: Starlight Over Texas

If you’ve never seen a B-Western from the '30s before, then it’s probably best if you skip Starlight Over Texas. Starring singing cowboy Tex Ritter (father of John Ritter), the Monogram Pictures-produced Starlight Over Texas is the type of film that makes countless other cheapo western productions look like they were made by John Ford — despite sharing the same low budgets and even lower production values.

Our story opens with some suspiciously non-Native-looking American Indians chasing after a stagecoach — a scene so thrilling that the editor shamelessly uses a take twice. But with the massacre of the brave men driving the coach comes the introduction to our hero, Tex (played by, um, Tex — who portrayed more onscreen characters named Tex than any other actor ever). Of course, Tex doesn’t arrive to save the stagecoach’s possessions or its passengers — no, instead, our smiling cowboy first appears strolling down the road while singing the movie’s tender titular love song to his spooked horse!

Thankfully, Tex casts aside his love for his horse when he meets a spicy little salsa number named Rosita (Carmen Laroux, in one of her final roles before her untimely demise in 1942), and, from then on, there ain’t nary a thing that’ll stop him from winning over her heart — even if it means humiliating himself (and anyone with a pulse) by singing a song like “Ah! Viva Tequila” with his ambiguously gay friends Ananias and Pee-Wee (portrayed by Horace Murphy and “Snub” Pollard, respectively, both of whom starred in a dozen or so other movies with Tex Ritter — usually as the same characters).

Wait, did I mention there was singing in this film? ‘Cuz there is. A lot, really. It’s safe to say that a good third of the film is song and dance — and not in a good way, either, especially when you have people singing about the joys of tequila in a B-movie aimed at the kiddies (no wonder that generation had so many alkies). But I kid Tex Ritter and this movie, too: in all honesty, Starlight Over Texas is a hoot of a picture — and a great companion piece to a bottle of “Ah! Viva Tequila.”

So anyway, soon our boy Tex is knee deep in Indians (who are actually white guys in make-up — no, really, they’re supposed to be that way onscreen, too!) led by the villainous Kildare (Karl Hackett) who is posing as a Deputy Marshal and thinks he has found the perfect fall guy for his dastardly plans in Tex! Oh, no, it’s…it’s…well, it’s just another bad Monogram B-Western kids — just get used to it. Oh, and look for the familiar mugs of both George Chesebro (himself no stranger to B-Westerns) as the scrupulous cattleman Hill and Carlos Villarías (star of the memorable Spanish-language version of 1931’s Dracula) in one of his few English-speaking Hollywood parts.

Straight from the dusty rubbish bins of exploitation maestro Samuel M. Sherman (which in turn has been mastered from an original print made for the movie’s producer), Starlight Over Texas hits DVD courtesy of Alpha Video in a sub-par quality release that is most forgivable when you take into consideration the film’s age and rarity. One amusing point of interest (aside from the movie itself) is the addition of several “new” sound effects (mostly during crashing sounds) to the DVD’s Mono Stereo soundtrack. At first, the noises confused me to no end (they stick out like a sore thumb) but, upon seeing the “Special Edition © 2008 Alpha Video Distributers” (sic) caption on the closing title credit, it becomes obvious that the new sounds effects were probably thrown in as an inexpensive form of copy protection (or something to that effect). Special features on the disc include some peeks at other Alpha Video titles and that's about it.

About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the alter-ego of a feller who loves an eclectic variety of classic (and sometimes not-so-classic) film and television. He currently lives in Northern California with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.

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