SAN ANTONIO. Warner Brothers, 1945.Errol Flynn, Alexis Smith, “Cuddles” Sakall, Victor Franken, John Litel, Paul Kelly and Tom Tyler. Written by Alan Le May and W. R. Burnett. Music by Max Steiner. Directed by David Butler, Robert Florey (uncredited) and Raoul Walsh (uncredited).

   This generally gets compared unfavorably to Dodge City (1939) and dismissed as inferior, but I find a lot in San Antonio to enjoy. With three directors and two talented writers, it’s hard to say who might be the real auteur of the film, but my bet is Max Steiner.

   Flynn plays Clay Hardin, a South Texas rancher shot to pieces sometime before the movie started (Tom Tyler quips “They must be picking lead out of him yet!”) recovering from his wounds in Mexico and gathering evidence against Paul Kelly, who heads up a combine of organized rustlers preying on honest cattlemen. As the film opens, Flynn’s got hold of the vital Macguffin that will convict Kelly, and means to make his way to San Antonio (hence the title of the piece) through outlaw-infested territory to get his man — with a few time-outs to romance itinerant chanteuse Alexis Smith.

   It’s a plot that wouldn’t be out of place in a film noir. Kelly owns the nightclub saloon where Ms Smith performs and he has a suave and treacherous partner in Victor Franken. Unfortunately, somebody lets the pace slacken, throws in too much witless time-wasting bits with Cuddles Sakall, and generally prolongs things when they need speeded up. BUT we also get a death scene from Tom Tyler to match his memorable exit in Stagecoach and a dandy saloon-wrecking shoot-out where everyone who gets hit smashes into something, falls off of something, or just flies into the air — or as we kids used to say “He died neat!”

   There are also as couple of quieter moments that surprised me: Like Errol Flynn looking visibly shaken after killing Tom Tyler in the street. I’ve never seen such a haunted look from Flynn or any other movie cowboy coming out of a fight. And satanic Victor Franken, double-crossed and dying, smiling up at his killer and saying “I’ll be waiting for you!”

   Small things, but together with the bigger scenes, thy make San Antonio a fun movie, and one worth seeing.