Mark of the Avenger (1938) (aka: The Mysterious Rider) starring Douglass Dumbrille, Sidney Toler, Russell Hayden, Stanley Andrews, Weldon Heyburn directed by Lesley Selander Movie Review

Mark of the Avenger (1938)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Charlotte Field and Douglass Dumbrille in Mark of the Avenger (1938) (aka: The Mysterious Rider)

An Earlier Avenger

It's been 20 years since Ben Wade (Douglass Dumbrille) had been home to his ranch having been forced to go on the run when he was accused of a murder he didn't commit. In that time Wade has taken the alias of Pecos Bill and forced into a life of crime as an outlaw with Frosty (Sidney Toler) as his sidekick. But with a sense of nostalgia Ben heads home where no one remembers him, neither his daughter nor William Bellounds (Stanley Andrews), the former ranch hand who framed him and now runs the place. But having secured work looking after the dogs Ben realises he needs to do something as not only is he less than impressed by his daughter's suitor but the ranch is plagued by cattle rustlers and he suspects that Bellounds son may be connected to the rustling

Considering most b-movie westerns from the 30s were slim affairs I have to say that "Mark of the Avenger" which is also known as "The Mysterious Rider" has a bit more going on than normal. Not only do we have Ben returning home with no one knowing who he is but we have rustling, skulduggery, romance and a few other issues. Of course the majority of these storylines are in truth nothing more than western cliches but to combine such an array makes "Mark of the Avenger" feel more like a real movie rather than just a mass produced quickie. Having said that some of the cliches are utter nonsense and we have characters doing and saying the same stupid things you will have encountered before at some time or another if you enjoy westerns.

Another thing which stands out about "Mark of the Avenger" is that whilst there is nothing stunning about the look with that same staged feeling which filled many a 1930s western director Lesley Selander manages to capitalize on the outside locations which provide a nice backdrop. In truth whilst "Mark of the Avenger" still feels like a low budget movie it feels like it may have been given more time and money than many a b-movie to get it right.

There is of course the little matter of Douglass Dumbrille who in the few movies I have seen him in always played a bad guy. Now Douglass Dumbrille certainly doesn't make for a horrible good guy but neither does he make for a very convincing one. Maybe is he had played the good guy role more often it would have worked but here it almost feels like a piece of miscasting.

What this all boils down to is that "Mark of the Avenger" is another b-western from the 1930s but it is one which feels less mass produced than many with some attempt to do things differently which is shown in the strange casting of Douglass Dumbrille as the hero.