Cast & Crew
In the 1880s, Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson travels through California's Napa Valley looking for material for his next story. Soon after he arrives in the town of Silverado, Stevenson learns all about the notorious stagecoach robber known as The Monk, who, dressed in a caped robe, has been robbing drivers along a nearby trail. Also arriving in Silverado is Bill Foss, an independent stagecoach operator heading for Eureka to start his own stage line. When some of the townspeople give Bill a cool reception and warn him against trying to compete with Jeannie Manning's stagecoach line, he sees the warning as a challenge and decides to stay a bit longer. Zeke Butler, one of Jeannie's stagecoach drivers, resents Bill's intrusion and tries to provoke him to a fight. Bill avoids a fight with Zeke but accepts his challenge to a race. Zeke wins the race but only after he deliberately forces Bill's coach off the trail. Bill's favorite horse, Big Fella, is injured in the wreck, and his only friend in town, doctor H. C. Henderson, sadly tells Bill that he may not be able to save his horse. Bill eventually convinces Jeannie that he has no intention of cutting into her business, and she and Bill become friends. Jeannie eventually hires Bill to work for her and sends him on a mission to deliver water to the poverty-stricken people living in the area known as Squatters' Flats. There Bill finds Doc tending to an ailing young girl named Lucy, whose parents can not afford to pay for her medical care. Doc explains to Bill that the young girl's parents and the other local farmers need a dam and an irrigation system, but the mining company that owns the land has refused to help. Back in Silverado, Zeke stirs up trouble for Bill by suggesting that Bill is in league with The Monk. Soon after Big Fella makes a miraculous recovery, Bill and Jeannie attend a birthday party for Lucy in Squatters' Flats. During the celebration, Doc proudly announces that E. J. McHugh, the owner of the mining company, has agreed to partially finance a dam and irrigation system. Soon Bill and Jeannie come to suspect that Zeke is involved in the stagecoach robberies and devise a plan to trap him during the next holdup. Though their plan fails to implicate Zeke, one of the stagecoach drivers manages to shoot the mysterious bandit in the arm during the robbery. A short time after the robbery, Bill finds a bloody sleeve in Doc's house, and asks him to reveal the identity of the man whose injured arm he treated. To Bill's astonishment, Doc rolls up his sleeve, shows his wound and reveals that he is The Monk. After explaining to Bill that he robbed the coaches to help the squatters, Doc prepares to surrender himself to the sheriff. Bill, realizing that Doc will face a certain death by an angry mob seeking revenge for the robberies, knocks him unconscious to stall his surrender long enough to make an appeal to McHugh for leniency. In Calistoga, Bill visits McHugh and secures a promise from him to finance the building of the dam and irrigation system at Squatters' Flats. In exchange for the promise, Bill has vowed to return to Calistoga with The Monk, dead or alive. When Bill returns to Silverado, however, he learns that Doc has fled and is danger of falling into a trap set by Zeke and his posse. Bill finds Doc before Zeke does, but the posse surrounds them before they can leave for Calistoga. Moments after Doc reveals his identity to Zeke, the sheriff, perched on a nearby mountain top, shoots and kills Doc. With the squatters guaranteed a more prosperous future, Bill and Jeannie secure their own happiness by marrying.
Paul E. Burns
Ed Peil Sr.
Adventures in Silverado on DVD
Unfortunately, there aren't many Karlson trademarks on view here, as this is a rather benign and inconsequential film on any level. In fact, it's lovable character actor Edgar Buchanan who ends up stealing the show. Buchanan was a welcome presence in many dozens of movies, including quite a few westerns, and his invisible acting technique is quite wonderful here as he plays a town doctor who says things like "The more I see of people, the more I like horses."
Top-billed William Bishop, meanwhile, turns in a wooden performance as a man who drifts into a western town with a wagon and horses. The town's current wagon-driver (Forrest Tucker) immediately takes offense, assuming that Bishop is trying to horn in on his business. Bishop spends much of the film being painted by others as a chump, a weakling, and afraid to fight back. Of course, he has his reasons, but the movie makes him remain a chump for a long time, and when he inevitably lets loose and reasserts his toughness, it's still not forceful enough to feel wholly satisfying for the audience.
Meanwhile, the town's weekly gold deliveries have been terrorized by a lone gunman known as "the monk" -- yes, "the monk," so named because he wears a hooded robe that conceals his face. It's as ludicrous as it sounds. Everyone wants to know the monk's true identity, and naturally suspicion soon falls on Bishop. There's also a romantic interest played by Gloria Henry, a very pretty blonde newcomer in only her fourth movie -- and whose hairstyle looks quite a bit more 1940s than 1870s! Henry never graduated to leading roles in A films, though she did appear in a few, like Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949) and Rancho Notorious (1952). Mostly she stayed in the "B" world until she went to television and scored her biggest success playing the mom in Dennis the Menace (1959-1963). As of 2012, she is a still-occasionally-working actress.
The screenplay, based on a Robert Louis Stevenson story called "The Silverado Squatters," actually places Stevenson into the story. In something of a framing device, Stevenson (Edgar Barrier) rides into town, pen and paper in hand, looking for stories. He mostly observes the "monk" story, but enters the action at a key moment.
Adventures in Silverado has a few action scenes, mostly involving thundering, galloping horses, but the movie remains rather lifeless and never really picks up. Available as a burn-on-demand title in the Sony Choice Collection, the transfer is beautiful and the film looks and sounds technically immaculate, but surely Sony has more worthwhile titles in its Columbia library to spend time and money on putting into the marketplace.
By Jeremy Arnold
Adventures in Silverado on DVD
The working title for this film was Silverado Squatters. The following written acknowledgment appears in the credits: "Desert scenes in this picture taken in Joshua Tree National Monument through the courtesy of the National Park Service. United States Department of Interior." Scottish-born author Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), traveled to Northern California in 1879 and remained for about nine months. Some of his time in California was spent in the town of Calistoga.