Offering little in the way of complexity when it comes to story or characterization, 'Neath the Arizona Skies stars John Wayne taking on bad guys, and if that's enough to be entertaining, this is a movie for you.
Oil is found on Indian land and members of the Osage, Seminole, Iowa, Cheyenne, Siouz, Pawnee, and Kiowa tribes are entitled to payment, which I have a sneaking suspicion was not fair-market value. Chris Murrell (John Wayne) is guardian to Nina (Shirley Jane Rickert), a young biracial girl whose Indian mother is dead. She is entitled to $50,000 if Chris can find her father Tom, "a good-for-nothing white man who left her [mother] two months before the kid was born," or else prove he's dead.
Sam Black (legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt) wants in on Nina's oil money, but it's not clear how they would get it by kidnapping the kid. Sam and his gang attempt to stop Chris and Nina on their journey. Chris sends Nina to get help from his friend Bud while he takes on the gang, showing how much smarter he is than them. He eventually rides off and scatters the remaining horses, but passes out from exhaustion at a watering hole.
Meanwhile in the nearby town of Snake River, the Express Office is robbed of $6,000. The thief comes upon an unconscious Chris and changes clothes with him. Bud's sister, Clara (Sheila Terry), discovers Chris and takes him back to her ranch. The thief turns out to be Clara's brother Jim (Buffalo Bill Jr.) Tom (Earl Dwire) shows up at Bud's, and wants to raise the daughter he didn't know about. With the help of Chris, they take on Sam and his gang, leading to shoot-outs, fistfights, and chases.
'Neath the Arizona Skies is a satisfying, inconsequential picture to pass the time for fans of the western genre. In addition to the action, there's some unintentional humor in the stunts, especially one where Sam rides off with Nina who has clearly been replaced by a dummy. There's also an unfunny scene where a horse takes a major tumble running down a hill.
The Blu-ray's video is presented with a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encode displayed at 1.37:1. The blacks appear inky and the whites are bright, helping create a good spectrum of grays. The image contains specks and scratches. Some scenes were recorded at frame rate that speeds up the action, which affects the picture sharpness. The audio is mono. The dialogue is clear from all the actors, except the kid who is hard to hear at times. The sound effect of galloping horses sounds hollow from being added in post. There are no extras.
Running less than an hour, 'Neath the Arizona Skies could easily have been an episode of a western television series that your dad or grandfather watched on a weekend afternoon as he relaxed, or dozed off, in his favorite chair. Not a top-tier western, but it is recommended for fans of John Wayne.