The set-up for this Johnny Mack Brown western is pretty standard for old B-movies. Some rustling has been going on and the local sheriff seems powerless to stop it...though in reality it's because the sheriff is corrupt and is behind all the crime. SO the government sends a federal agent to investigate and Steve (Brown) poses as an ordinary guy, not a federal marshal. During the course of the film, Steve does a lot to bring law and order to the town and figure out who's behind all the monkey business.
The casting of Russell Simpson as the sheriff is a bit unusual. Simpson was a frequent supporting actor in these films but usually played good guys. On hand as the sheriff's co-conspirator is the skeletal Clarence Wilson, who often does play old sourpusses and corrupt types. On the good guy side, Fuzzy Knight is on hand and does a fine job...mostly because he doesn't use his all too familiar stuttering bit. Bob Baker is also there, mostly to look pretty and sing a few tunes.
So is this any good? Considering it's Johnny Mack Brown, you expect it to be very good. His laid back, easy-going style is quite the contrast to most B-western heroes and it makes for a nice little B. Well worth seeing even if the plot is very familiar.
Action / Music / Romance / Western
Action / Music / Romance / Western
Following 1939's "The Phantom Stage", the last of 12 series westerns made at Universal by Trem Carr and Paul Malvern starring Bob Baker, Universal kicked off a new series of six starring their new series-sign Johnny Mack Brown (who had already starred in three Universal serials with one more to go.) Baker was now odd-man-out at the studio as his contract had been with Trem Carr, and Carr and associate Malvern had moved over to Monogram to begin a series of four "Tailspin Tommy" features. Universal, usually late to the party anyway, added Baker and comedian Fuzzy Knight to the first-six Brown films to form a trio angle along the lines of Republic's highly successful "Three Mesquiteers" series, but there were no continuing roles in these films---they even killed Baker off in the 2nd film---and Baker's 2nd-lead soon went to 3rd-lead (behind Knight) and then to "gone" after the sixth film. When Bob Baker was next seen in a film at Universal, it was as the uncredited bus driver in Abbott and Costello's "Ride 'Em Cowboy" in 1942. From this point onward, Fuzzy Knight was the sidekick in every B-series western made by Universal until they closed shop on series westerns and serial production when they merged with International Pictures to become Universal-International: In this one, Steve Hayden, working undercover, comes to Denton to help restore law and order. The men secretly responsible for the lawlessness are Big Bill Tanner and Melenkthy Culp, the town banker. (A pairing made in filmdom heaven since the meaner and more desperate the two become, the more enjoyable they are to watch.) Judith Lantry arrives from back east to check on her ranch holdings ran by her cousin Bill "Cousin Willie" Strong, and Tanner and Culp, fearful she will discover the faked mortgages they put on her property, send henchman Ortega to do away with her, but Steve saves her life. She and Cousin Willie put Steve in charge of the ranch, and he quickly fires her crooked foreman Lon, and hires Clem Waters and a whole new group of cowhands. Steve captures Lon with 200 head of horses belong to Judith, and he confesses and implicates Tanner and Culp.
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