THE UTAH KID. Tiffany Productions, 1930. Rex Lease, Dorothy Sebastian, Tom Santschi, Mary Carr, Walter Miller, Lafe McKee, Boris Karloff. Director: Richard Thorpe.

   The movie begins with a sheriff’s posse hard on the trail of a single man on horseback. He’s young and clean-cut, a good looking fellow with a smart horse, so how could he be an outlaw? The young fellow is Cal Reynolds (Rex Lease), and looks to the contrary, he’s definitely on the wrong side of the law, since as it turns out, the safe haven he’s heading for is a place called Robbers’ Roost.

   Thanks to the overall dull minds of the posse after him, he makes it safely. Now Robbers’ Roost is exactly the kind of place you’d expect it to be, given the name, and the fellow in charge is called Butch (Tom Santschi) and the one who appears to be the second-in-command is Baxter (Boris Karloff, and the only reason this old western movie is in any kind of demand today; rumor has it that there may be only one surviving print).

   Also on hand is Parson Joe (Lafe McKee), an elderly gentleman who is not allowed to leave, else he may reveal the outlaws’ hideout to the authorities, so he has decided to stay on willingly. Where else could he find so many sinners whose souls he might save? Found by Baxter wandering around the vicinity (no other explanation given) is a young girl named Jennie Lee (Dorothy Sebastian). To save her from being killed, or worse, young Cal claims that she is his fiancée, and (gulp) is forced to marry her on the spot, thanks to the presence of Pastor Joe.

   What young Cal does not know is that Jennie is engaged to the local sheriff (Walter Miller), which puts him in quite a predicament – and she as well, as it is clear that she is falling for young Cal, and hence the rationale for quite an entertaining western, believe it or not. There are no singing cowboys, no stupid sidekicks, only a small but incisive love story that probably needn’t have taken place in the West, only this one did.

   As for Boris Karloff, although his role is brief, he is a joy to watch and listen to. His voice is as mellifluous as you’d expect it to be, even in this very early talkie, and his body language is certainly more expressive than it needed to be, in this otherwise undemanding role of the second in command of a fourth rate gang of robbers and thieves.

   He was an actor with a future (second sight is wonderful), while Rex Lease, as it turned out, as young and handsome as he was, ended up with far less of a career than Mr. Karloff’s.