As with many Hollywood films from the days of the Great Depression, Roosevelt's New Deal is promoted. Keeping it as apolitical as possible, no mention is made of FDR or any of his programs. Flood control and with it cheap electricity was one of the main planks in Roosevelt's restructuring of the American economy. A devastating flood forces farmers to pull up steaks and head for Gunsmoke Valley, Arizona, where they can start anew on land each bought from the unscrupulous Realtor and land developer Phineas T. Flagg (even the name sounds lowdown and mean), played with verve by Kenneth Harlan. Naturally one of the farmers has a beautiful daughter, Marion (Jean Carmen). It doesn't take Stony long to start drooling and howling at the moon. Tucson and Lullaby do their best to thwart their saddle pal's efforts to win the damsel's hand. The farmers discover that the land has been condemned so the government can flood it when a dam is built. To keep the farmers from being swindled out of their land, the Three Mesquiteers take charge. There lies the rest of the movie.
There's usually plenty of action in any Republic shoot-'em-up. This one is no exception, except most of the action comes with a big shootout near the end with lots of dare devil stunts. Yakima Canutt is on hand to make sure all the tricks of the trade are utilized to make the action exciting and realistic. Canutt even plays one of the henchmen. He's the one who throws the first egg during the big street brawl.
By this time, the singing cowboy craze was taking off. A popular radio singer and recording artist named Gene Autry was beginning to change the direction of B westerns by always performing many of his songs, or introducing new ones, in his films. To roll with the flow Stony attempts to sing a ballad called "When the Campfire is Low on the Prairie." Needless to say, Gene didn't have a thing to worry about. Fans were quick to throw water on the campfire. Not until Roy Rogers (and to some extent Tex Ritter) began plying his trade did Gene have any serious rival. One song that Gene sang early in his career, "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine," is used briefly in the film during the social gathering just before Stony sings. The old standard "When You and I Were Young, Maggie" is a sing-a-long near the beginning of the flick.
Lullaby and his dummy Elmer are satisfactory in the humor department but a couple of clowns billed as Oscar and Elmer are lame by today's standards and that's being kind. Elmer's character is now politically incorrect. Audiences who saw this when it was first released probably found Oscar and Elmer hilarious. Several comedians in those days used stuttering as a gimmick to get laughs. Porky Pig is a classic example of utilizing stuttering to provoke laughter. Even as late as 1992 Austin Pendleton cracked up viewers with his stuttering in "My Cousin Vinny."
There should be more action and less talk and romance in "Gunsmoke Ranch," but it's still worthwhile for B western fans. Those who enjoy the Three Mesquiteers should find this entry acceptable, though not up to par for the series.