The Big Stampede has little to recommend it.
It was the third production, following Ride Him, Cowboy (1932), under a six-picture contract John Wayne signed with Warner Bros. It's a remake of The Land Beyond the Law (1927).
When Warner Bros. acquired First National Pictures a few years prior, they inherited the rights to several popular silent westerns starring Ken Maynard. These were A-list productions showcasing Maynard's impressive stunt work.
Warner Bros. sought to remake the Maynard silents with sound, recycling as much action footage as possible, reshooting only the close-ups and interiors. They just needed an actor who matched Maynard's build. Enter Wayne.
Except, The Big Stampede doesn't offer much action. Wayne plays John Steele, a deputy lawman sent to clean up the New Mexico territory.
He arrives in town and poses as a drunken drifter while sizing up local cattle baron Sam Crew. Then John is on the frontier, befriending a wagon train leader named Cal and making eyes at Cal's niece Ginger. Then the train comes under attack from Sam Crew's gang. To apprehend the gang, John recruits Sonora Joe, a Mexican bandit who first tries to rustle the wagon train's cattle.
If this sounds disjointed, then I have conveyed the sense of watching this film. The script abandons plot threads with no regard for logic or continuity. It also contains an inordinate number of speaking parts.
Which begs the question: If the point of remaking the Maynard films was to save money, why shoot such a complex and talky script? Casting and shooting so much new footage cost time and money. The only memorable bit of recycled footage is the titular stampede, which provides the film's climax. The wide shots of rampaging cattle and runaway wagons impress. The spliced in close-ups of Wayne shouting things like “Hoo-ah!” do not.
Speaking of Wayne, like much of the cast, he appears ill at ease. His scenes with Mae Madison, who plays Ginger, are stiff and awkward. Only Luis Alberni, who plays Sonora Joe, acquits himself well; though hardly well enough to recommend this dull mess.