Some genres have such satisfying textures that even mediocre examples of those genres can make for pleasant viewing. So it is with Westerns produced on respectable budgets. Like consuming a disposable episode of a cowboy-themed TV show, watching Pony Express Rider is an agreeably pointless exercise. Many of the familiar themes are here, such as honor and vengeance. The costumes, locations, and sets evoke the comfort-food milieu one associates with Hollywood oaters. And some the usual suspects populate the supporting cast: Jack Elam, Slim Pickens, Dub Taylor. So even though the story is trite and unfocused, it’s possible to mindlessly groove on the polished look and somber mood of the piece. However, it should be said that the title is something of a misnomer, as the protagonist doesn’t actually join the Pony Express until halfway through the picture, and afterwards his involvement with the famous courier service is relatively inconsequential to the plot. If there’s a great story to be told about the bold men who carried mail through the dangerous frontiers of America’s Wild West, this is not that story. Instead, Pony Express Rider is a standard-issue revenge saga.
At the beginning of the picture, Johnnie (Stewart Petersen) flirts with his best gal, Rose (Maureen McCormick), until her animalistic brother, Bovey (Buck Taylor), intervenes. He beats Johnnie, deeming him an unworthy suitor for his kin. Tensions rise further when Bovey’s father, Trevor (Henry Wilcoxon), accepts a post as governor of the Nevada Territory, leaving Bovey in charge of the family spread. Power-mad Bovey clashes with Johnnie’s father, Jed (Ken Curtis), leading to Jed’s death. Murkiness ensues. Jonnie sets out to avenge his dad by killing Bovey, though it’s never clear why that involves anything more than marching to Bovey’s house with a gun. Plus, once Johnnie hits the road for nebulous reasons, Bovey commences stalking Johnnie. Huh? At some point, Johnnie stumbles across a dead Pony Express Rider and takes responsibility for that man’s route, since he’s going in the same direction anyway. Again, huh? If you’re able to overlook the nonsensical plotting, it’s possible to enjoy the sleek camerawork, dusty riding scenes, and rote citations of Western-movie signifiers. Expecting anything more will lead to frustration.
Pony Express Rider: FUNKY