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Cowboys and Bandits: 50 Movies [12 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

Ghost Town Law
The old plot device of a western "ghost town" being used as a hideout for criminals is trotted out again in Monogram's Ghost Town Law. This time around, the heroes are The Rough Riders: namely, Buck Roberts (Buck Jones), Tim McCall (Tim McCoy) and Sandy Hopkins (Raymond Hatton). Following their usual modus operandi, the three heroes pretend to be strangers to one another, and also pose as criminals themselves to lull the real villains into a false sense of security. The plot revolves around an old gold mine, jealously guarded by masked, well-armed desperadoes. For the sake of heroine Josie Hall (Virginia Carpenter), the Rough Riders rout the villains and return the mine to its rightful owners. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Law of the Rio Grande
Wolf Hardy (Nelson McDowell), the wounded leader of an outlaw gang, takes great pains to insure that his young protégé, Phil "The Cub" Norris (Bob Custer), will return to the straight and narrow. The hot-headed Norris is almost convinced to join a gang headed by the notorious Blanco Kid (Edmund Cobb), but he is persuaded otherwise by Blanco's bride-to-be, Judy Lanning (Betty Mack). Norris rescues the pretty girl from her brutal boyfriend and is offered a job by her father (Carlton King) in gratitude. Blanco threatens to reveal the former outlaw's past, but a recovered Hardy intervenes. Two former silent screen cowboys -- Custer and Cobb -- came face-to-face in this above-average low-budget oater produced by Harry S. Webb and Flora E. Douglas for release by the redoubtable Syndicate Film Exchange, a forerunner to Poverty Row company Monogram. Nearing the end of his screen career, Custer was a bit long in the tooth to play someone's young protégé. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

North of Arizona
Silent screen Western star Jack Perrin plays a somewhat naive cowboy hired to innocently front the nefarious schemes of a gang of thieves in this cheaply-made B-Western from Poverty Row company Reliable Pictures Corp. A jealous rival (Lane Chandler) frames Perrin in an express office robbery and the cowboy is arrested. Making a daring escape from jail with the help of some friendly Indians, Perrin manages to infiltrate the gang of thieves and eventually bring their leader, Al Bridge), to justice. Following his series of six Westerns for Reliable, the middle-aged Perrin turned to supporting roles. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Boss Cowboy
Boss Cowboy was released by Superior Pictures-a misleading corporate name if ever there was one. Buddy Roosevelt plays a ranch foreman who has his hands full with a gang of rustlers. Roosevelt manages to get off a good shot at one of the rustlers, who drops dead on the spot. In truth, the rustler's killer was his disgruntled ex-partner, who has evil plans of his own. Boss Cowboy was directed by Victor Adamson, the father of notorious exploitation-flick-maven Al Adamson. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Western Mail
Monogram's Tom Keene western series continued its winning streak with 1942's Western Mail. As was customary, Keene is a good guy posing as a bad guy to get the goods on the other bad guys. While operating undercover, Keene befriends Lucky (Fred Kohler Jr.), the gone-astray brother of heroine Julia (Jean Trent). When the chips are down, Lucky proves he's still a right guy by laying down his life for Keene, thereby paving the way for a happy ending for our hero and the lovely Julia. Frank Yaconelli does his usual as Keene's Mexicano comic sidekick. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Wolves of the Range
Wolves of the Range was another entry in PRC's "Lone Rider" ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Cowboy and the Bandit
Louis Weiss (of Poverty Row's Weiss Bros.) produced this commonplace B-Western starring one of the lesser names of the genre, Rex Lease. Falsely accused of horse-thieving and saved in the nick of time from a lynching party by decent gang leader Scarface (Dick Alexander), cowboy Bill (Lease) hightails it to the Texas Panhandle, where he obtains the job of foreman on the Barton ranch. The spread is about to be taken over by vicious Larkin (George Chesebro), who claims to have won it in a poker game with the late, lamented Pa Barton. With the help of Larkin's erstwhile girlfriend, saloon hostess Alice (Janet Morgan), Bill gets the goods on the villain, thus saving the ranch for Ma Barton (Adabelle Driver) (whose fine cooking is much discussed) and spirited young Bobby Barton (Bobby Nelson). Released by Poverty Row company Stage and Screen, The Cowboy and the Bandit was a reunion of sorts for several once-popular silent screen performers, including former cowboy heroes William Desmond, Bill Patton, Franklyn Farnum, Art Mix, and Wally Wales. Another survivor of silent films, leading lady Blanche Mehaffey, was so distressed at the downward turn her career was taking that she insisted on using a pseudonym, the aforementioned Janet Morgan. No one was fooled, however, and Mehaffey's career quickly came to an end. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Feud Maker
In this western, a good-guy must halt a battle between cattle ranchers and settlers. An outlaw exploits the feud by working on both sides and then buying up all of the land for peanuts as the two factions murder each other. The hero soon figures out the outlaw's scheme and brings him to justice via a showdown. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

The Trusted Outlaw
Though A.W. Hackel's Supreme Pictures went belly-up in 1936, he continued grinding out his popular Bob Steele westerns, shifting distribution to up-and-coming Republic. Steele plays Dan, the headstrong young son of a notorious outlaw. Dan is forced not only to live down his dad's reputation, but also his own, since it's been rumored that he has strayed to the wrong side of the law from time to time. He manages to prove that he's a good guy after all, but in a surprise development he doesn't win the film's official heroine Molly (Lois January), who has jilted him for another. Fortunately, second lead Betty (Joan Barclay) is there to pick up the pieces. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Raiders of Red Gap
That favorite old B-Western menace Charles King is at it again in Raiders of Red Gap, the last of PRC's "Lone Rider" Westerns starring Robert Livingston. King plays Jack Bennett, the head of a crooked cattle syndicate attempting to drive away the local ranchers in order to build a packing plant. When Jim Roberts (Edward Cassidy) and his neighbors band together and fight back, Bennett hires dandified gunslinger Butch Crane (Roy Brent) but gets instead dopey Fuzzy Jones (Al St. John) in disguise. Fuzzy, of course, is soon in more trouble than he can handle but, happily, The Lone Rider, alias Rocky Cameron (Livingston) is along for the ride. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Raiders of Old California
In this western set in the Mexican controlled part of California, a villainous cavalry officer is trying to force the owner of a hacienda to give him his land when a courageous settler comes to the rescue. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Texas Trouble Shooters
Boothill Brigade
Boothill Brigade stars Johnny Mack Brown as frontier do-gooder Lon Cardigan. Villainous land-grabber John Porter (Edward Cassidy) spends most of the early reels divesting homesteaders of the hard-earned property. All of this comes to an end when Cardigan looms into view, fists at the ready. Seldom resorting to gunplay, our hero manages to send Porter's minions scurrying, then concentrates on cleaning the main bad guy's clock. Produced by A.W. Hackel for Republic release, Boothill Brigade boasts considerably better cinematography than the usual Hackel product. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Trail of the Silver Spurs
Trail of the Silver Spurs was Monogram's first "Range Riders" entry for 1941. As in previous episodes, the three heroes are portrayed by Ray "Crash" Corrigan, John "Dusty" King and Max "Alibi" Terhune. The plot concerns the efforts by the Range Riders to "exorcise" an alleged ghost town. It is giving nothing away to reveal that the spooky goings-on are the handiwork of half-mad prospector Nordick (Milburn Morante), who hopes to scare away all potential visitors so that he can work the local gold mine himself. Since Nordick isn't really a villain, the heroes take pity upon him and cook up a method that will allow him to come out ahead--and to entrap the film's real villain, who has been using the ghost town as his headquarters. Dorothy Short, wife of actor-stuntman Dave O'Brien, is the heroine, while future singing cowboy star Eddie Dean shows up in a bit. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Westbound Stage
Filmed back-to-back with Roll, Wagons, Roll (1939), this minor Tex Ritter Western once again teamed Ritter with the rangy, unfunny Nelson McDowell. Also repeating was a story of a wagon train guided by an army scout (Ritter). This time, however, the train is attacked, not by wild Indians, but by the notorious Greer gang, who murders Tex's brother Jim (Kenne Duncan). Determined to avenge his brother's death, Tex spreads words that he will escort a large shipment of gold on the next stage. Naturally, Greer (Reed Howes) and his gang attack. Outnumbered, Tex releases a band of accused army deserters lead by Lane (Nolan Willis) and together they capture Greer. The deserters are reinstated for heroism and Tex can warble It's All Over Now by Johnny Lange and Lew Porter. Along with most of the supporting cast, leading lady Muriel Evans appeared in both Westbound Stage and the previous Roll, Wagons, Roll, two of Monogram Pictures' worst Westerns. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Trouble Busters
A cowboy (Jack Hoxie) and his partners are known as "trouble busters," men who look for adventure and help out people in need. They discover that a ranch owned by a crotchety old man and his daughter has large oil deposits. They also discover that a local gang has found out about it and plans to take the land from the pair. ~ Brian Gusse, Rovi

Code of the Cactus
Tim McCoy once again played Department of Justice agent "Lightning Bill" Carson in Code of the Cactus, and once again he infiltrates the outlaws by masquerading as a foreigner, this time a Mexican named Miguel. A gang of very modern rustlers using high-powered trucks and machine guns is terrorizing the local ranchers. Disguised as Miguel, Lightning Bill quickly learns that the rustlers are lead by Blackton (Forrest Taylor), a nasty meatpacking contractor, and with assistance from usual sidekick Magpie (Ben Corbett) and a new acquaintance, range detective Bob Swane (Dave "Tex" O-Brien), he manages to penetrate Blackton's barricade of piled-up trucks. McCoy made eight Westerns for low-budget producer Katzman's Victory Pictures before signing with newcomer PRC. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Thunder in the Desert
Bantam-weight cowboy star Bob Steele stars in Thunder in the Desert. If you're familiar with Steele, you'll know that he was a star with but a single plot: A young man searches for the murderer of his father. This time, however, a few changes have been made. Now Bob is on the prowl for the murderer of his uncle. With the help of Louise Stanley, he corrals the killer and claims his inheritance. Produced independently by A. W. Hackel, Thunder in the Desert was released by Republic Pictures. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Son of the Renegade
Son of the Renegade was the first of a short series of westerns produced and written by John Carpenter (not the horror-film specialist), who also starred. The villain, a chap named Three Fingers (Jack Ingram) frames Red River Johnny (John Carpenter) for a series of bank holdups. While trying to clear himself, Our Hero crosses the path of characters with the names Valley, Dusty, Wild Bill, Cherokee, Baby Face Bill and the Long Haired Kid, the Australian Kid, the Texas Kid. Evidently Carpenter isn't taking any chances: he wants the world to know he's making a western. John Carpenter made one more of these low-budgeters before he began billing himself as John Forbes. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Roll on Texas Moon
Roll on Texas Moon was the first of 26 Roy Rogers vehicles directed by fast-action specialist William Witney. The plot concerns a deadly feud between cattle ranchers and sheepherders, with the villains playing both ends down the middle. Working on behalf of the cattlemen, Rogers tries to avoid an all-out range war, finding time to champion the cause of gorgeous sheep rancher Jill Delaney (Dale Evans). Dennis Hoey, best known for his portrayals of the thick-witted Lestrade in Universal's "Sherlock Holmes" series, is rather surprisingly cast as the main heavy. While the musical content of Roll on Texas Moon is as omniprescent as ever, the "thrill" content is considerably heightened by the expert contributions of William Witney. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Ridin' the Cherokee Trail
Tex Ritter's penultimate Western for Monogram -- and his second-to-last as a solo star -- Ridin' the Cherokee Trail featured no less than 13 musical numbers, several composed by Ritter and his sidekick Arkansas Slim Andrews. Surrounding all this warbling, screenwriter Edmond Kelso and director Spencer Gordon Bennet crafted a fine little story of a couple of Texas Rangers crossing into the lawless Cherokee Strip despite the fact that they lack jurisdiction. The area is terrorized by a gang of outlaws lead by Bradley Craven (Forrest Taylor, who consistently prevents the citizenry to hold an election to join the Union. Tex and Slim join the forces of rancher Wyatt (Fred Burns and his daughter Ruth (Betty Miles) and after several skirmishes -- during which Tex briefly goes undercover as an outlaw -- Craven and his gang are defeated. In gratitude, the citizenry elects Tex to hoist the first Union flag. In the music numbers, Ritter and Andrews were accompanied by The Tennessee Ramblers, a hayseed singing group popular with rural audiences. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Terror of the Plains
A ranch hand seeking to clear his father's name ventures into the territory of a fearsome outlaw in this B-Western starring genre stalwart Tom Tyler. Upon receiving word that his father has been charged with murder in Cheyenne, ranch hand Tom Lansing (Tyler) heads for home where his father is awaiting trial. Believing his father's claim that local criminal Butcher Wells was the man truly responsible for the murder, Tom throws caution to the wind and makes way for Wells' hideout in the ghost town of Twin Rock Canyon in search of the confession that will save his father's life. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Marked for Murder
In this western, the Texas Rangers must stop a range war between sheepherders and cattle ranchers from erupting. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

The Last of the Warrens
Last of the Warrens is ever-so-slightly better than most of Bob Steele's westerns for A.W. Hackel's Supreme Pictures. Once again, the hero, this time named Ted Warren, spends the lion's share of his screen time searching for the murderer of his father. In a unique twist, the bad guy turns out to be a government agent, which speaks not at all well for the G-Man screening process. At one point, the diminutive protagonist knocks out two hulking bad guys at once, a scene that really can't be watched with a straight face. Like most of Bob Steele's 1930s westerns, Last of the Warrens was written and directed by Steele's father Robert N. Bradbury. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Stormy Trails
The second-to-last Rex Bell Western for Poverty Row producers Max and Arthur Alexander, Stormy Trails was the only entry not directed by Robert F. Hill. Sam Newfield, however, was even more of a hack than Hill and Stormy Trails bore Newfield's trademark of carelessly inserted stock footage (a stampede of cattle in this instance) whose ancient origins failed to match the rest of the film. Based on E.B. Mann's 1934 novel Stampede, Phil Dunham's screenplay featured siblings Tom (Bell) and Billy Storm (Bob Hodges) whose ranch is heavily mortgaged despite the existence of gold on their property. As it turns out, Billy is in league with a gang of outlaws headed by Dunn (Lane Chandler). Attempting to break free of the gang, Billy is killed by Dunn's henchman, Max Durante (Karl Hackett). Dunn then proposes to stampede the cattle so Tom will be unable to pay off his bank in time. Captured by the gang, Tom manages to break free in the nick of time and is able to bring Dunn and his gang to justice. The husband of silent screen star Clara Bow, Rex Bell left films after his sixth and final film for the Alexander brothers to successfully run for the office of lieutenant governor of Nevada. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Dawn on the Great Divide
The Rough Riders--Buck Jones, Raymond Hatton and Rex Bell--endeavor to provide a wagon train safe passage through Indian country. With Jones heading the caravan and Bell and Hatton working undercover, the threesome discover that the "savages" planning to attack the settlers are actually renegade whites. The criminals' target is the shipment of railroad supplies being carried in one of the wagons. Normally, the third "Rough Rider" would have been played by Colonel Tim McCoy, but when McCoy was called to active duty in World War II, he was hastily replaced by old-time western star Rex Bell. Dawn on the Great Divide was the last film for Buck Jones, who was killed in the infamous Coconut Grove fire shortly before the film was released. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cavalier of the West
The first of four low-budget Westerns that veteran cowboy star Harry Carey made for poverty row company Artclass Pictures, this film was a sometimes thoughtful, mostly heavy-handed story of a cavalry captain attempting to keep the peace between Indians and settlers. A gang of whites are robbing the local tribe of its gold shipments and framing the Indians in a cattle rustling scheme. The mastermind behind the scheme, as Captain Carey soon realizes, is Lee Burgess (Ted Adams), foreman of the Fernandez Rancho. Like John Wayne would in his later years, Carey sensibly left the necessary romantic interludes to younger cast-members, in this case Kane Richmond, as Carey's handsome younger brother, and Carmen la Roux, as Dolores Fernandez. Five-year-old Elena Verdugo -- later a popular Universal starlet and, later still, Nurse Lopez on television's Marcus Welby, M.D. -- made her screen debut in this film. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Frontier Town
Fighting Renegade
In this complicated western, a group of explorers head to Mexico to hunt for an Indian burial ground. The hero, who has been unjustly accused of murdering the leader of the first expedition, begins impersonating the notorious bandito El Puma. He intercepts the latest expedition just as the leader is stabbed. The real murderer then blames it on El Puma. Now the hero stands accused of two murders. The hero begins looking for the treasure buried within the grounds and for the real killer. He finds both. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Silver Spurs
This Roy Rogers musical western gets off to a grim start when rancher Jerry Johnson (Jerome Cowan) is murdered by resort-hotel operator Lucky Miller (John Carradine). It's all part of Lucky's scheme to take financial advantage of a railroad right-of-way construction project. Conspiring with the villain is Johnson's mail-order bride Mary Hardigan (Phyllis Brooks)-or is she? No matter: the main plot complication concerns the efforts by Miller to frame Roy Rogers, Johnson's ranch foreman, for the murder. Somehow, Roy, Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers find time for several songs, while ace stuntman Yakima Canutt gets to perform one of his more famous feats. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

West of Cimarron
A fine, action-packed entry in Republic Pictures' long-running "Three Mesqueteers" Western series, West of Cimarron featured the constellation of Bob Steele as Tucson Smith, Tom Tyler as Stony Brooke, and Rufe Davis as Lullaby Joslin. The scene is Texas right after the Civil War and former medical doctor Ken Morgan (James Bush) is leading a gang of "bushwackers" against the unfair taxation policies of the occupying Union army lead by Colonel Conway (Guy Usher). But Conway is unaware that his civilian attaché Bentley (Hugh Prosser) and nasty Captain Hawkes (Roy Barcroft) are in fact squeezing money from the populace in general and tavern owner Morgan (Budd Buster), Ken's father, in particular. When Ken's younger brother (Mickey Rentschler) is shot in the back by one of Hawkes' men, Tucson, Lullaby, and Stony come to the rescue, despite the fact that the latter fought with the Union Army in the recent war. Learning the truth from the Mesqueteers, an outraged Colonel Conway demands an investigation. Hawkes, however, has the colonel killed by his own orderly (Cactus Mack), who manages to frame Ken. When Stony and Tucson interfere, they are imprisoned by Bentley, who has taken over command. But by using a great deal of cunning, Lullaby and his sidekick Rastus (Cordell Hickman) get word to Major Briggs (Stanley Blystone) -- the inspector general -- and the renegade army officers are wiped out in a final shootout. Unusual for a B-Western, West of Cimarron got in trouble with the Production Code Administration, which demanded that some of the killings be eliminated and that the writers more clearly portray Hawkes and his men as renegades and not representatives of the Union army. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Westward Bound
The fifth of Monogram's eight "Trail Blazers" Western, Westward Bound was set during the time of Montana gaining statehood. Property values are about to skyrocket and nasty banker Roger Caldwell (Harry Woods) conspire with tax collector Henry Wagner (Karl Hackett) to drive the local ranchers off their land. Enter the "Trail Blazers," Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson and Bob Steele, called in by rancher Jasper Tuttle (Hal Price) to investigate. Maynard infiltrates the gang and is elected marshal of Big Horn. Working from the inside, so to speak, he learns that the brain behind Caldwell and Wagner's scheme is Albert Lane (Weldon Heyburn), secretary to the Territorial Commission of Montana. Although severely outnumbered, the aging "Trail Blazers" manage to defeat the conspirators with a great deal of cunning and a couple of sticks of dynamite. The increasingly cantankerous Maynard reportedly took umbrage to Steele's participation and demanded his ouster. However, it was Maynard himself who was forced to leave -- after the sixth entry, Sonora Stagecoach (1944) -- to be replaced in the final two "Trail Blazers" Westerns by Chief Thundercloud. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Ghost Patrol
A cowboy turned G-Man looks into a series of mysterious plane crashes in this low-budget but fairly engrossing B-Western starring Tim McCoy. Masquerading as an outlaw, Tim Caverly manages to infiltrate a gang of mail thieves holed up in a ghost town. As Tim discovers, the gang leaders, Dawson (Walter Miller) and Kincaid (Wheeler Oakman), have kidnapped Professor Brent (Lloyd Ingraham), whose electrical ray gun is used to shoot down the planes. Also arriving at the hideout is Natalie (Claudia Dell), the professor's pretty daughter, who warns her father that women and children were among the victims of the latest crash. Although Dawson is suspecting Tim to be a G-Man, the villain orders Brent to shoot down an incoming government plane. There is an exchange of gunfire between Dawson and Tim, and Brent is shot attempting to shut off the ray gun. The professor survives, however, and the villains are apprehended. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Feud of the Trail
Produced back-to-back with Mystery Range (1937), this Tom Tyler Western was the first of Sam Katzman's Victory Pictures productions to be distributed by Monogram. Tyler plays Tom Wade, an agent for the cattlemen's association who bears a striking resemblance to dying outlaw Jack Granger. Tom assumes the dead desperado's identity, aiding Pa Granger (Lafe McKee) in his feud with nasty neighbor Lance Holcomb (Roger Williams) and Holcomb's even nastier mother (Vane Calvert). The bone of contention is a piece of property containing a gold mine. Tom, as Jack, settles the score with the Holcombs, and, revealing his true identity, wins Sheila Granger's love -- a rather kinky denouement considering Tom's close resemblance to the girl's dead brother. Sheila was played by Harlene Wood, who, as Harley Wood, had starred in the notorious exploitation-melodrama Marihuana (1935). ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Valley of Terror
When an innocent man (Kermit Maynard) is suspected of stealing cattle, he must struggle to clear his name. ~ Iotis Erlewine, Rovi

Drum Taps
Produced by Poverty Row company KBS (formerly Sono Art-World Wide), this above-average B-Western starred Ken Maynard as an embattled rancher who gets assistance from the Boy Scouts (Troop No. 107, Los Angeles Council), headed, in this instance, by Ken's real-life brother, Kermit Maynard. Along with pretty girl rancher Eileen Carey (Dorothy Dix) and the scouts, Ken is able to defeat a nefarious plot to defraud the local ranchers by ruthless Bradley Skinner (Hooper Atchley). Strangely, Atchley, along with veteran actor/director Lloyd Ingraham, who played the heroine's grandfather, appeared unbilled. Maynard enjoyed working with blonde Dorothy Dix and cast her again in Wheels of Destiny (1934). ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Six Shootin' Sheriff
The second of six low-budget Ken Maynard Westerns produced by Max and Arthur Alexander, Six Shootin' Sheriff featured a veteran star who, as reviewers were quick to point out, had gained quite a bit of poundage since his heyday in the early '30s. Maynard played Trigger Martin, a cowboy falsely accused of bank robbery and hiding out under an assumed name in a small Western town. Wounded in a barroom brawl with the town bully, Trigger is nursed back to health by post mistress Molly Morgan (Marjorie Reynolds). Impressed with Trigger's ability to stand up to the town's lawless elements, shopkeeper Zeke (Lafe Mckee) persuades the newcomer to accept the position of sheriff. A former associate, Chuck (Walter Long), attempts to blackmail the new sheriff, but Trigger not only prevents Chuck and his gang from raiding the post office safe, but also saves his kid brother (Bob Terry) from a life of lawlessness. Although made for around 15,000 dollars, Six Shootin' Sheriff netted its distributor more than six times that amount on Maynard's box-office value alone. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Homesteaders of Paradise Valley
Regular "Red Ryder" series villain Roy Barcroft took a well-earned breather in Homesteaders of Paradise Canyon. The equally disagreeable Gene Stutenroth (aka Gene Roth proved a fair enough substitute, however, as Bill Hume, a homesteader so disgusted over the fact that the government land he was promised for free instead goes for two dollars per acre that he hooks up with villainous newspaper publisher A.C. Blaine (Milt Kibbee). Having guided the homesteaders to Paradise Valley in the first place, Red Ryder (Allan Lane) manages to persuade his charges to remain despite the exorbitant price of land, much to the chagrin of Blaine and his cohort Langley (Emmett Vogan), who do their level best trying to scare the settlers away from the potentially lucrative valley. When Red goes undercover as a driver for Blaine's stagecoach line, young settler Steve Dill (John James) accuses him of treason and incites the settlers against him. It all comes to a showdown at the Hume ranch, where Bill's brother Rufe Mauritz Hugo) is shot before he can confess to his brother's treachery. Bill manages to get away, but Red mounts Thunder and tracks him down. Implicating his bosses Blaine and Langley, Bill is carted off to jail. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Romance on the Range
It's hard to dislike the Roy Rogers musical western Romance on the Range, but it's equally hard to get too enthusiastic about it. Rogers plays the owner of a western ranch who suspects that something is amiss with his highly secretive foreman Banning (Edward Pawley). Assuming a phony name, Roy gets a job as a ranchhand on his own spread, eventually discovering that Banning is secretly the head of a bandit gang which has been fencing stolen furs at the local trading post. Innocently caught in the middle of all this is postmistress Joan Stuart (Linda Hayes) who falls in love with Rogers while unaware of his true identity. As Steve, veteran movie heavy Harry Woods plays a relatively benign role in Romance on the Range. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Brand of Hate
An above-average cast makes up for the lack of production values in this, the second of 32 Bob Steele Westerns produced by A.W. Hackel for the States' Rights market. Steele is Rod Kent, a rancher falling in love with his neighbor, Margie Orkin (Lucile Browne), whom he rescues from an irate bull. Margie, however, is soon in a different kind of danger altogether when her father's evil half-brother, Bill (George Hayes), suddenly appears on the property with blackmail on his mind. When Rod intervenes, his father (Charles K. French) is shot by one of Bill's nasty sons, Holt (James Flavin). Bill's attempt to pin the blame on his half-brother, Joe (William Farnum), fails. Assisted by Margie's kid brother, Budd (Mickey Rentschler), and his faithful pooch, Pardner, Rod rounds up the villains, who are hog-tied and delivered to the Sheriff (Jack Rockwell). ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Death Valley
The titular valley is the locale for an inordinate amount of double-crosses and betrayals. Young prospector Carroll Nye thinks he's doing a good deed when he rescues heroine Rada Rae, whom he finds wandering aimlessly in the desert. Little does Nye realize that Rae is in cahoots with claim-jumping Raymond Wells, who intends to get his hands on a valuable gold mine, the location of which is known only by our hero. Upon realizing he's been duped, Nye begins to punch out the girl (a startling scene!), but comes to regret his rash behavior when it develops that Rae has been forced to betray him under threat of death. By film's end, however, it is the villainous Wells who suffers the most. Death Valley was remade, scene-for-scene, in 1946, with Helen Gilbert and Nat Pendleton in the main roles. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Wild Horse
By many considered the best of Hoot Gibson's eight Westerns for Gower Gulch producer M.H. Hoffman, Wild Horse starred The Hooter as Jim Wright, a cowpoke hired to work on George Bunny's rodeo ranch. Gibson manages to capture "The Devil Horse," a magnificent steed which had been eluding the wranglers, but the horse is stolen by jealous ranch hand Edmund Cobb, who murders Gibson's buddy Skeeter Bill Robbins) along the way. Gibson is blamed for both but everything is worked out after the usual hard ridin' and shootin'. Gibson, who enjoyed near autonomy in his pictures for Hoffman's Allied Pictures Corp., filled the supporting cast with old friends such as Neal Hart, Fred Gilman, Pete Morrison and Cobb, all of whom had seen better days in the silent era. "The Devil Horse" was "played" by Mutt, a horse from Gibson's own stable. The result was a fast-paced B-Western marred only slightly for modern audiences by the typically demeaning "comedy" of African-American performer Stepin Fetchit. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Branded Men
Ken Maynard's Branded Men wasn't up to the standards of his previous Range Law, but it was still better than the usual "B"-western of the era. On this occasion, hero Maynard is travelling in the company of pint-sized comedy relief Billy Bletcher (later the voice of the Big Bad Wolf and Black Pete in the Disney cartoon) and gangly Irving Bacon. Falsely accused of a crime, the intrepid trio spends the rest of the picture clearing themselves, but not before being forced to divest a pompous judge (Wilfred Lucas) of his fancy clothes. June Clyde, a busy musical comedy star, may well be the most talented of Maynard's early-talkie leading ladies. For some reason, Branded Men is the one Ken Maynard western which still pops up with frequency on television. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Code of the Fearless
The first of four Fred Scott singing Westerns produced by C.C. Burr, Code of the Fearless was like all thirteen Scott vehicles released by poverty row company Spectrum Pictures. Scott, a former baritone with the San Francisco Opera, played a Texas Ranger infiltrating the feared Skull Mesa Gang by pretending to be an outlaw himself. Unfortunately, the lawman is so convincing that he even seems to have fooled Ranger Captain Walter McGrail, who accuses him of fraternizing with the enemy. Scott's only defender is pretty Jean Morrison (Claire Rochelle) but even she is dumbfounded when he joins the Skull Mesa bandits at their secret hideout. It is all a ruse, of course, and Captain Rawlins and his Rangers arrive just in time to round up the entire gang. The story had been told many times before (and would be many times again); the only difference here is that Scott took time out to warble such ditties as Here's Romance and Gonna Ride, both by Lew Porter and Johnny Lange. Popular sidekick Al St. John, who had supported Scott in seven previous Westerns, was replaced here by former burlesque comic Harry Harvey. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Last of the Clintons
Harry Carey's western series for bottom-of-the-barrel Ajax Pictures were definitely a mixed bag, but some were pretty good, and Last of the Clintons was even better. Carey is cast in the William S. Hart mold as frontier detective Trigger Carson. With stoic determination, Carson takes on a gang of cattle rustlers headed by the monstrous Luke Todd (Earl Dwire). An interesting subplot involves the kidnapping of heroine Edith Elkins (Betty Mack), who manages to reform her abductor (Del Carson) before any harm can be done. Only in its haphazard story construction and occasionally fuzzy photography does Last of the Clintons betray its poverty-row origins. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Thunder Over Texas
The first of five Guinn "Big Boy" Williams Westerns produced by low-budget Beacon Pictures, Thunder Over Texas remains one of the decade's more obscure sagebrush melodramas. Written by Sherle Castle, the film was directed by her soon-to-be husband, legendary cult figure Edgar G. Ulmer, who moonlighted as "John Warner" in order to fool his employers at Universal. Big Boy plays Ted Wright, a cowboy who adopts a little girl, Tiny (Helen Westcott), after her father is killed in a struggle over valuable railroad maps. When several attempts to get hold of the maps fail, crooked banker Bruce Laird (Claude Payton) and his cohort, the even more crooked sheriff (Philo McCullough), kidnap the little girl who is, of course, saved in the nick of time by Ted and pretty schoolmarm Helen Mason (Marion Shilling). ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Crooked Trail
Released by A.W. Hackel's Supreme Pictures Corp., this low-budget Western stars Johnny Mack Brown as Jim Blake, a cowpuncher who happens upon Harve Tarlton (John Merton), a wanted killer left for dead in the desert. After making Harve a partner in his prospecting business, Blake begins a romance with Helen Carter (Lucille Browne), the daughter of the hotel proprietor (Horace Murphy) in nearby Patchy Creek. Helen, however, is engaged to Lanning (Charles King), a nasty gambler who has been threatening her father. Using Harve's thieving skills, Lanning enjoys a lucrative business separating the local prospectors from their gold but is eventually driven out of town by Blake. Elected marshal by a grateful citizenry, Blake marries Helen, but refuses to listen when she warns him against Harve and continues to blithely deposit gold nuggets in the Carter safe. While Jim and the townsmen are fighting a gang of outlaws, Harve robs the safe and then asks Helen to run away with him. Hoping to prove Harve's duplicity once and for all, she agrees and they head for the badlands with Jim in hot pursuit. There is a final confrontation and Helen gets in the way of a bullet meant for Jim. Happily, she survives and is soon reunited with Jim, who has been forced to kill Harve in self-defense. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

I Killed Wild Bill Hickok
The redoubtable John Carpenter strikes again with the ultra-low-budget I Killed Wild Bill Hickok. Carpenter serves as the film's producer and screenwriter, and also heads the cast, pseudonymously billed as John Forbes. Everybody knows that Wild Bill Hickok (here played by Tom Brown) was shot in the back while playing poker, but Carpenter/Forbes boldly forges ahead with a wholly fictional scenario, wherein Wild Bill meets his Waterloo in a High Noon-style gun battle with one "Johnny Rebel" (played, naturally, by Carpenter). Though the film's cast (Helen Westcott, Virginia Gibson, Denver Pyle) is more impressive than usual for a John Carpenter production, the film betrays its cheapness through its heavy reliance upon mismatched stock footage. Warming the director's chair is ace stuntman Richard Talmadge, who despite his vast experience isn't quite in the John Ford or Lesley Selander league. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Dude Bandit
As he had so many times before, Hoot Gibson pretended to be a dimwit in this low-budget Western, his penultimate for penny-pinching producer M.H. Hoffman. Naturally, Gibson, as Ace Cooper, only pretends to be cowardly and stupid in order to investigate the mysterious killing of Dad Mason (Gordon De Main) in a hotel room. He does that disguised as "the Dude Bandit," quickly determining that Dad was murdered by greedy cattle baron Al Burton (Hooper Atchley). But how? Burton was observed by several witnesses as the fatal shot rang out. Aligning himself with old friend Skeeter (Gibson regular Roy "Skeeter Bill" Robbins) and the dead man's pretty daughter, Betty (Gloria Shea), Ace learns how Burton was able to establish an alibi for the murder. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Tombstone Canyon
Filmed at Red Rock Canyon, AZ, and at rental stages at the California Tiffany Studios, Tombstone Canyon was the fifth of eight low-budget westerns Ken Maynard would make for independent producer E. W. Hammons' K.B.S Productions. Searching for his parents' killers, Ken goes up against a mysterious masked villain, "The Phantom," whose shrill cry of vengeance sends shivers through the settlers in Tombstone Canyon. But as Ken quickly learns, "The Phantom" (Sheldon Lewis) only kills men working for nasty Alf Sikes (Frank Brownlee). The latter attempts to blame Ken for the recent slayings of his henchmen but the newcomer manages to prove otherwise. In the end, there is a huge surprise in store for our intrepid hero, whose parentage is not quite what he has always believed. Although technically crude and directed with the usual lethargy by Alan James (formerly Alvin J. Neitz), Tombstone Canyon is at times beautiful to look at and presents a legendary cowboy star at the height of his game. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

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