CALIFORNIA. American International Pictures, 1963. Jock Mahoney (Don Michael O’Casey), Faith Domergue (Carlotta Torres), Michael Pate (Don Francisco Hernandez), Susan Seaforth (Marianna De La Rosa, Rodolfo Hoyos, Nestor Paiva. Story & Screenplay: James West. Producer-Director: Hamil Petroff.

   I didn’t realize they were still making low budget black-and-white westerns like this as later as 1963, which is when I first started grad school. The stated ambition of the film, according to a short prologue, is to tell the story of California’s fight for independence.

   All the fighting, though, except for a well-choreographed sword fight between leading man Jock Mahoney very near the end of the proceedings, is the stock footage of Mexican soldiers marching their way up the coast to wreck havoc on all the disloyal landowners who stand in their way.

   Once the movie itself begins, it settles down instead to your basic four-sided romantic triangle. Half-Irish half-Spanish Don Michael O’Casey is in love with heiress and black-eyed beauty Carlotta Torres, who is engaged to be married to sinister Don Francisco Hernandez (who not so incidentally was responsible for the death of O’Casey’s father), who spends his time and kisses with cantina owner Marianna De La Rosa.

   The story is mediocre at best — I kept wishing that Zorro would show up — not that Jock Mahoney (looking very much like Yancy Derringer, for some reason) is not very nearly the next best thing, or he would have been, had the story taken a turn for the better that way.