The ranchers have given money through Benton to the crooked lawyer Harkness to save the titles to their land. When Harkness gets a better offer, he steals Benton's receipt for the money and...
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The ranchers have given money through Benton to the crooked lawyer Harkness to save the titles to their land. When Harkness gets a better offer, he steals Benton's receipt for the money and Benton is jailed. To fight back, Benton escapes jail at night to become the Phantom. Written by
Maurice VanAuken <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"The Fighting Phantom" qualifies as a lively, low-budget, modern day, black & white western set in the 1920s when Boulder Dam was undergoing construction. Kent Taylor plays the eponymous protagonist. Nothing is a picnic for Taylor as he tangles with unsavory adversaries. Nashville native Lona Andre is a sexy little dish of an actress who wins his heart. Future "Maltese Falcon" starlet Gail Patrick plays Wade's relative. At the heart of this oater is a major land swindle. The intrepid hero in director Fred Allen's "Fighting Phantom" endures considerable hardship at times, especially after the authorities lock him up in the calaboose. Wade Benton manages to let himself in and out of jail with a little help from an adolescent deputy named Matt Arnold, Jr., so he can perform his courageous deeds. Of course, everything works out in the end, but Wade Benton (Kent Taylor) finds himself up to his ears in villains and varmints in the form of swindling lawyers and greedy land barons. Later, Wade's interrogation methods seem rather extreme. He drags a scheming lawyer across the desert. When the scoundrel still refuses to admit his crime, Wade hauls him through cactus. Taylor proves quite a hand with a lariat himself when breaks out and back into jail. Anybody who has seen the Marlon Brando western "One-Eyed Jacks" will attest to the relative ease with which Taylor wields his rope to get him out of his jail cell.
In Washington, D.C., a Congressman stands before a crowd and announces that the construction of Boulder Dam will create the largest artificial reservoir in the world. This hundred-mile lake will prove worthless to his constituents unless an aqueduct is erected to carry the water from the dam to those countless thirsty farmers and ranchers. The water will transform the lives of countless residents who have had to sink wells in an otherwise parched terrain. The politician rhapsodizes about the plethora of livestock and crops that the water will yield. "I hereby solemnly pledge myself," the politician vows, "to work unceasingly for the aqueduct which will transform a million worthless acres into a modern Garden of Eden." When crooked attorney Cliff Harkness (perennial villain Irving Pichel of "Gambling Ship") tries to sell the old Gonzalez Spanish land grant to land baron Mark King (Berton Churchill of "Stagecoach) for $150-thousand, King refuses to buy. Meantime, in town, Wade encounters Dorothy (Nashville native Lona Andre of "Slaves in Bondage") quite by accident. Sheriff is demonstrating his expertise with a rope to his girlfriend Jo-Jo Foster (Cora Sue Collins). Sheriff's lariat loops over a freight wagon and encircles Dorothy's ankle. Sheriff reels King's secretary literally into the street. Dorothy reprimands Wade for his impertinence despite his protests of innocence. Moments later Sheriff appears and confesses his crime. No sooner has this happened than Wade's goofy sidekick 'Jitney' Smith (Warren Hymer of "Meet John Doe") cruise up in his jalopy and hit Dorothy, propelling her into Wade's arms. Smith has come to fetch Wade. Later, Dorothy inquires about Wade's marital status, and Sheriff assure her that Wade is single.
Harkness propositions the small ranchers and farmers, and proposes that they buy what he has to sell for $50-thousand. Wade intervenes and huddles with his neighbors. The judge advises Wade to compromise with Harkness because the attorney could stir up an awful lot of trouble. The small ranchers and farmers cannot come up with $50-thousand so Wade seizes Harkness by the lapels. Using his strong-arm techniques, Wade persuades Harkness to lower his price to $20-thousand. Harkness insists payment in cash in 48 hours. Wade convinces his neighbors to ante up the loot, and he takes the whole amount along with his own land deed to the crooked lawyer. Harkness scrawls a receipt for Wade. No sooner has Wade left than King, the cattle baron walks in and buys the land deed for over a $100-thousand. The scheming Harkness slips over to Hezekiah Gentry's barber shop and picks Wade's pocket and sticks the receipt into a stove. The eagle-eyed barber notices what Harkness is doing. The barber informs Harkness that he uses his stove for his corn liquor. He hides the incriminating information into one of his barber cups. Gentry decides to join Harkness' business. Not long after, when Wade can neither find the receipt nor the squatters' money, he brandishes his guns and tries to flee. No sooner has he stepped out of the saloon than he backs into a lawman. The imaginative thing about "The Fighting Phantom" is how our hero gets out of one tough scrape and into another predicament. He thwarts the villains repeatedly adopting an ersatz Spanish accent to make his demands. Once Wade has been imprisoned, he starts his campaign against the villains as the anonymous phantom. Meantime, Gentry has carved a slice of Harkness' pie with his own greedy demands. Eventually, Harkness kills Gentry while he is searching his store. Dying in Wade's arms, Gentry tells him that Harkness double-crossed him. Our hero has to find the receipt now to exonerate himself.
"The Fighting Phantom" is a modest, entertaining B-movie western. Allen's movie boasts few gunfights but lots of hard horsemanship.
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