THE FOLLOWING is a checklist for the dyed-in-the-wool B-Western movie addict. Each letter from the words "Washington Post" stands for an oversight or cliche' frequently found in the low-budget horse operas of yesteryear.
W is for WALK-THROUGH, those background extras who stroll along the dusty Western streets. Watch behind the main action, and count how many times that same lady with the bonnet and basket goes by in a single scene.
A is for AMMUNITION, or the lack of any need for it in the sagas of the old West -- where all those six-shooters delivered 10 or more shots and sometimes never had to be reloaded at all.
S is for multiple SHADOWS cast by our hero on the "streets" of indoor sound sets with all those overhead lights glaring down from above. The question is: How many suns do we have up there at high noon?
H is for HOBBY HORSE, the moth-eaten, glass-eyed stuffed studio mount that rocks slowly up and down like a carnival horse before a scratchy, out-of-focus background film.
I is for IGNITION time, for all those fires that start just a little too quickly in fireplaces and Western campsites. One touch of a match to a heap of damp hardwood logs and whoomph! a mighty roaring blaze. And don't forget all the candles and kerosene lanterns which, once lighted, have the amazing power to put out enough wattage to illuminate a good-sized ballroom.
N is for musical NUMBERS that were played in every saloon in the old West. Why is it that the piano player's repertoire never went beyond the same four songs: "Oh Susannah," "Little Brown Jug," "Golden Slippers" and "Polly Wolly Doodle?"
G is for the GATLING GUN that has shown up in a thousand and one Westerns. The gates of Fort Apache creak open, and that same old wagon with the same old surprise weapon under the same old rag of canvas rumbles in. Given a dime for each appearance of this old chestnut, most of us should be rich by now.
T is for camera TRUCK. As Hoppy or Gene or Hoot Gibson come galloping along the road, watch for the dust cloud and tracks from the film truck right in front of him. Look closely, and sometimes you'll see the shadow of the camera operator keeping right up with our hero and his horse.
O is for OVERUSED MOVIE LINES, those phrases that were worked to death in the B-Westerns: "A man's got to do what he thinks is right." "You can thank me by invitin' me to the weddin'." "Take off that gunbelt, nice and easy -- all right, now kick it over here."
N is for NATIVE AMERICANS. Volumes could be written about how Hollywood grossly misrepresented the American Indian in the movies. Why do we hear the cry "Comanches!" every time an arrow strikes a covered wagon (almost always just above the left rear wheel)? This hapless tribe has shouldered the blame for 99 percent of all the arrows ever shot in the Old West.
P is for PAPER MACHE boulders which, instead of sliding or rolling down a hill, go bouncing ever higher, like an avalanche of beachballs. Those of the 30-ton variety on indoor sets had a way of moving a few inches whenever a fist-fight participant bumped against them a little too hard.
O is for OUTHOUSE, or the conspicuous absence of any sign or mention of one in the entire West. Try to find one in a movie made prior to the Western comedy "Cat Ballou" (1965).
S is for SMOKE SIGNALS. Native Americans may have used signal fires, but coded smoke-puff messages? Not likely. Any Indian who held a blanket, which took his wife months to make, over an open fire wouldn't have to worry about death at the hands of the white man.
T is for TUSSLE, the good old-fashioned barroom brawl. During these scenes, keep an eye on the stand-in, or stunt man. Few movie doubles matched the physical proportions of the star perfectly. And the lower the budget, the more likely you are to get a good look at his face.