Boasting three of Hollywood's biggest names and one of the most brutal fight scenes ever to hit the screen, THE SPOILERS manages to elevate itself above the B-western status that might otherwise have been its fate. The story is simple, involving a stereotypical good guy (Wayne), bad guy
(Scott), bad good-girl (Lindsay), and good bad-girl (Dietrich). It's the turn of the century and Wayne and his partner, Carey, are miners in Nome, Alaska. They become the victims of a scam devised by gold commissioner Scott, who is intent on spoiling the region's gold-mining boom. The ownership of
Carey and Wayne's mine is called into question by Scott, and their case is brought before judge Hinds--who, unknown to Wayne, is in cahoots with the gold commissioner. Also helping Scott is the seemingly proper Lindsay, Hinds' niece, whose womanly wiles have convinced Wayne to abide by the court's
decision. Carey, however, wants to bear arms and fight for the mine, resulting in a feud and the dissolving of Carey and Wayne's partnership. In the meantime, Dietrich, a gin-joint proprietor, has taken a fancy to Wayne, while spurning Scott's advances. When Wayne's case is postponed for 90 days
and his assets are frozen, he begins to think along Carey's lines and--with help from Barthelmess, a card dealer employed by Dietrich--decides to steal his frozen assets from the bank's safe. Barthelmess, however, is planning to kill Wayne and keep Dietrich for himself. Wayne survives this
treachery, but is thrown into jail by Scott, who plans to let him escape and then gun him down. However, the thought of murder offends Hinds and Lindsay, causing them to split from Scott. After Dietrich lures some key information out of Scott, Wayne successfully escapes (aided by the reformed
Barthelmess) and organizes his fellow miners to rise up and defeat Scott's henchmen. Wayne then gets his chance to even the score when he meets Scott in Dietrich's saloon. Scott tries to avoid the confrontation by telling Wayne that he is not armed, but Wayne responds, "We'll do it the hard way!"
What follows is perhaps the most exciting, hard-hitting, furniture-smashing, two-fisted showdown in movies. Not surprisingly, Wayne emerges victorious, winning Dietrich's love as well.
The fact that the fistfight is wholly unrealistic and unsurvivable is what makes it all the more exciting. This is Hollywood movie star indestructibility at its finest--although, while much of the fighting was actually done by Wayne and Scott, the most dangerous stunts were performed by doubles
Eddie Parker and Alan Pomeroy. In fact, the fight scene has become the trademark of all five versions of THE SPOILERS, from the 1914 and 1923 silents to the previous talkie in 1930 and the subsequent 1955 remake. (Included in this version's cast is William Farnum, who starred in 1914 version as
the hero, and Lloyd Ingraham, who appeared in the 1930 version as Hinds' Judge Stillman.) In addition to the film's star quality and its spectacular brawl, THE SPOILERS also has some detailed, Oscar-nominated art decoration and set design. Dietrich, unfortunately, doesn't get a chance to sing, but
an old tune of hers from DESTRY RIDES AGAIN, "Little Joe the Wrangler" (Frederick Hollander, Frank Loesser), does sneak in as background music. Note famed gold-rush poet Robert Service as (what else?) a poet.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Boasting three of Hollywood's biggest names and one of the most brutal fight scenes ever to hit the screen, THE SPOILERS manages to elevate itself above the B-western status that might otherwise have been its fate. The story is simple, involving a stereoty… (more)