Wayne is in the Fast Lane
I've watched a few of John Wayne's b-movies, those early westerns which struggled to fill an hour and to be honest none of those I have watched have been good but if you enjoy either John Wayne or the western genre then they will help you pass an hour. And that is basically the case of "Winds of the Wasteland" or "Stagecoach Run" as it is also known because it's not a good western but will fill an empty hour. In fact the storyline to "Winds of the Wasteland" struggles to fill its less than spectacular 54 minute running length and there is plenty of padding to stretch things out. But then as with many of these westerns it has its moments, one or two scenes which actually lift it to being average.
With the arrival of the Telegraph meaning the end of the road for the Pony Express, former riders John (John Wayne - Paradise Canyon) and Larry (Lane Chandler) decide to set up a stagecoach business but find themselves being duped by businessman Cal Drake (Douglas Cosgrove) when they buy one of his stagecoaches and a stagecoach runs from him only to find both worthless. Despite this they go ahead and try and turn things into a success especially when they put their names forward to compete in a Stagecoach race to win a Government contract worth $25,000 except Drake wants it as well and will stop at nothing to win it.
Now the main story to "Winds of the Wasteland" is that of a race to win a government stagecoach contract, and on one side you have the good guys and on the other you have the bad guys. But ironically the actual race part of the story arrives in the final quarter which means we get a lot of build up and in there a lot of padding. We learn that with the telegraph coming in the guys who ride the Pony Express are out of work and so John and Larry decide to form a stagecoach company but are duped by the villainous Cal Drake who runs a stagecoach company and they end up in a ghost town with a wreck of a carriage and little business. There's also a romantic sub plot which is typical of this sort of movie and it all builds to a predictable moment of heroism as John saves the day in the nick of time and beats the baddies who are using underhand tactics.
There is very little to the story and you find yourself wondering whether anything interesting will ever happen. To be honest nothing really interesting does happen as we get a couple of gunfights a bit of a brawl and John being thrown in jail ahead of the big stagecoach race, But then it has those moments which make it worth while and the actual race itself is surprisingly exciting all the more so because of it being stunt men risking their lives in high speed horse antics.
Part of the issue with "Winds of the Wasteland" as was the case with many of these movies is that whilst we have characters they are 2 dimensional. Phyllis Cerf gives us some generic wide eyed love interest as Barbara Forsythe and Lane Chandler gives us reliable but dull right hand man in Larry Adams and Douglas Cosgrove is not really evil enough as bad guy Cal Drake. Then there is the youthful John Wayne as John Blair and whilst none of the traits which would dominate Wayne's later career are present there are a whole different basket of traits which dominated these earlier performances. What we get is a lot of smiling and charm and a few moments of heroism as he plays a very nice guy but it is all one colour with no depth.
What this all boils down to is that "Winds of the Wasteland" is very similar to the other short westerns which John Wayne made before he became a big star. They are not terrible but they are barely average with weak storylines, weak acting and often weak action. But they always have one or two decent scenes and "Winds of the Wasteland" is no different as the big stagecoach race makes it worth watching even if it does only last a few minutes.