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A Big Box of Cowboys, Aliens, Robots and Death Rays [4 Discs] [DVD]

Release Date:07/12/2011
Strap on your holster and reach for your ray gun with this collection of eight classic hybrid westerns. Features include Radio Ranch, Tombstone Canyon, Ghost Patrol, Sky Bandits, Riders of the Whistling Skull, Gun Packer, Vanishing Riders, and Saddle Mountain Roundup.

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    Vanishing Riders
    Hiding behind the intriguing title is yet another low-budget Bill Cody Western from poverty row company Spectrum. Looking somewhat the worse for wear, the former silent screen cowboy starred as Sheriff Bill Jones of Cactus City who adopts the young son (Bill Cody, Jr.) of a slain outlaw (Roger Williams). Leaving his job behind, Bill and the kid begin a new life in Silver City, a ghost town "haunted" by a gang of cattle rustlers, the "Vanishing Riders" of the title. Written by the prolific Oliver Drake, Vanishing Riders featured yet another former silent screen hero, Wally Wales, as the leader of the outlaw gang. The film was produced at a ranch belonging to poverty row entrepreneur Trem Carr. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

    Gun Packer
    Filmed on location at Kernville, CA, this B-Western from Poverty Row company Monogram starred Jack Randall as Jack Dinton, the son of a murdered marshal. Jack is given his father's guns to wear by Ranger Chief Holmes (Lloyd Ingraham) and sallies forth to catch a gang of stage robbers. Discovering the bandit's lair, Jack gains entrance by pretending to be an outlaw himself. Once on the inside, he makes the acquaintance of Professor Angel (Barlowe Borland), an ex-convict assigned by the gang to melt down the stolen gold for easier transportation. The professor is convinced to join forces with law and order and accompanied by Jack's African-American sidekick, Pinky (Raymond Turner), they set a trap for the leader of the gang, Chance Moore (Charles King). Randall's leading lady in this and four other Monogram oaters, Louise Stanley, became his partner in real life as well. Although the Randall series had been conceived as an entry in the singing cowboy sweepstakes, the star's operatic voice did not find favor with the audience and Gun Packer was released sans the usual warbling. ~ 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

    The Sky Bandits
    In this adventure, the final entry in the "Renfrew of the Mounties" series, the intrepid RCMP officer and his girl friend head for the Yukon to look for stolen planes carrying gold shipments. There they find themselves faced with a death ray that has been invented by a scientist who has been convinced by the criminals behind the thefts that he is working for the government. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

    Saddle Mountain Round-Up
    Like the first entry in the "Range Busters" series, the 1941-42 season opener Saddle Mountain Roundup was as much a whodunit as a western. This time, the murder victim is irascible rancher Magpie Harper (John Elliot). Arriving too late to save Harper from his fate, heroes Ray "Crash" Corrigan, John "Dusty" King and Max "Alibi" Terhune commit themselves to solving the murder. The identity of the killer is tipped off by the actor's prominence in the screen credits (at this time, he was usually cast in uncredited bit roles). Fairly well directed and acted, Saddle Mountain Roundup is compromised a bit by the surprising shoddy editing of Ray Claire. ~ Hal Erickson, 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

    Riders of the Whistling Skull
    In perhaps their most unusual Western adventure, the Three Mesqueteers -- Stony (Bob Livingston), Tucson (Ray Corrigan), and Lullaby (Max Terhune) -- go in search of Professor Marsh (John Van Pelt), an archeologist who vanished while searching for the lost city of Lukachukai. Along for the ride are Marsh's daughter, Betty (Mary Russell); Rutledge (Roger Williams); and an Indian guide, Otah (Yakima Canutt). The expedition heads straight for the Whistling Skull, a huge rock formation in the "nostril" of which the Mesqueteers discover the missing scientist, gaunt but alive among several mummies. Both Rutledge and Otah prove to be less than helpful, however, and at one point Betty and Stony go missing and are feared lost. As Tucson learns, the natives are under the influence of a fanatical white man, but who is he? Oliver Drake and John Rathmell's screenplay was later reworked into a latter-day Charlie Chan thriller The Feathered Serpent (1949), which featured Bob Livingston as the villain. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

    Men with Steel Faces
    In hopes of cashing in on the popularity of "Number One Cowboy" Gene Autry, a fly-by-night firm called Times Pictures reissued a shortened version of Autry's 1935 Mascot serial Phantom Empire under the title Men with Steel Faces. It will be remembered that the original plotline of this 12-episode chapter play required Autry to head to the underground city of Murania, where the evil Prime Minister Argo (Wheeler Oakman) plotted to overthrow Queen Tika (Dorothy Christie) and take over the Surface World. In addition, Gene had to take leave of Murania on a daily basis and return to his ranch, lest he jeopardize his radio singing contract! As silly as this was in 1935, it was even more ridiculous in 1940, especially when compared to Autry's slicker Republic singing westerns. Even so, Men with Steel Faces posted a profit, as did practically anything associated with the name of Gene Autry. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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