The Legend of Frank Woods is a re-edited and slightly expanded version of a picture called The Hell You Preach, which was completed in 1972. Notable additions include a few new scenes featuring former teen heartthrob Troy Donahue in a minor role. The original film, which comprises most of the running time, is a hopelessly routine Western about a gunfighter who assumes the identity of a preacher and starts a new life in a frontier town. (The plot of a 1974 telefilm starring Marjoe Gortner, The Gun and the Pulpit, is suspiciously similar.) Iffy acting, grungy cinematography, and jumpy editing exacerbate the trite narrative, as does a logy storytelling style. Leading man Hagen Smith has an interesting physical presence with his shaggy beard and tall frame, but his performance offers merely a faint echo of Clint Eastwood’s signature stoicism. Supporting player Michael Christian is moderately better as the local hothead who picks trouble with the fake preacher, but the plotting is so enervated that the conflict between these characters never feels believable. Viewers are asked to accept that the arrival of a tough stranger changes every imaginable dynamic in a community, not because of anything the filmmakers show to the audience, but simply because that’s the way of things in stories of this type. There was potential for comedy here, as when the villain tests the fake preacher by demanding the man drink whiskey, and there was potential for suspense, as when the mischief of local crooks puts the hero into a position where he must reveal his identity by taking action. Instead, the folks behind The Legend of Frank Woods opted for by-the-numbers filmmaking—with some some of the important numbers missing.
The Legend of Frank Woods: LAME