During Jeff Arnold’s West’s appropriately short season of Western short films, we have looked at a couple of shorts made by Michael Brian Rawlins – click the links for The Deputy (2017) and The Dentist 2020). Today, we’ll look at Rawlins’s most recent concise oater, released on Internet last month.
I say short. It has a positively epic length by comparison with his earlier efforts, a runtime of a whole 18 minutes. I’m surprised there wasn’t an intermission.
The rivals of the title are two young Arizona boys, Jack (Milan Guimarin) and Lawrence (Ethan Colt), who are competitors in all childhood pursuits. But they share an admiration for the portrait of a great lawman which hangs on the wall and they both dream that one day they too will wear the badge and serve with distinction, and their own likenesses will also hang there.
Older, together they foil a bank robbery and as a result are appointed deputies, and are proudly photographed displaying their new badges. They are just as inseparable and just as competitive. Jack is now played by Travis Jager (the outlaw in The Dentist) and Lawrence by Michael Brian Rawlins, natch. They get a good bit of continuity there because the boy-Lawrence actor, Ethan Colt, is named elsewhere as Ethan Colt Rawlins, which may not be a coincidence.
The sheriff (Steven Hobbs) is near retirement and he exacerbates the young men’s competitiveness by telling them that he will recommend one of them as his successor.
But before that can happen, a dangerous gunfight occurs in town during another bank robbery and one of the pair is fatally hit. We’re seven minutes in now, so approaching half-time. The survivor valiantly hunts down the perpetrators and recovers the loot, to the joy of bank teller and townsfolk.
Ten years pass. There are automobiles in the street now. The hero of that day has become a distinguished and bearded US deputy marshal. He sits for a portrait. The day of the grand unveiling arrives…
So many of the early Western shorts were comedies. In the 1910s the likes of GM ‘Broncho Billy’ Anderson and the young Tom Mix did little else. So this one stands in a long tradition. But there’s enough depth and seriousness in Rivals to leaven the lightness, and Rivals is actually a good Western. It’s amazing what you can do in (what used to be) a reel or two. Full credit to the Rawlins clan, writer/producer/director/star Michael, especially.
That’s it for short Westerns for the moment. Shorts may be appropriate for the current warm weather but it’s back to longs next time.