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In Whirlwind Horseman Ken Maynard plays the hero, Ken Morton. Morton
rides along with his sidekick, Happy (Billy Griffith), and sees a man
in a wagon being chased by a gang of bad guys. Immediately Ken and
Happy jump into action and fight off the gang. Ken learns that ranchers
are being driven off of their land and ends up with a job to help fight
the evil gang. This draws Ken and Happy into a situation that was none
of their business, but Ken is looking for his partner, Cherokee (Budd
Buster), who is supposed to be in the area. It turns out that Cherokee
has discovered oil in the area, but no one knows where. That is why
Cherokee is kidnapped and held until he discloses the location of his
discovery. Not taking any chances, the bad guys are driving everyone
from their land in order to take over once the location of the oil is
discovered. Ken has to figure out who leads the gang and save his
Whirlwind Horseman was standard for a low budget western. The story was hardly different from most other B westerns, but every element of this Grand National production was done right. Ken Maynard's star quality shined brightly in this movie. The role of the sidekick would have been a little better if Billy Griffith and Budd Buster had traded roles. As Happy, Bill Griffith was not old enough or silly enough to fall into the stereotyped sidekick persona. Budd Buster was not much older than either Griffith or Maynard, but he was able to play a scruffy looking character. Buster made the part of Cherokee interesting.
One of the better B westerns, Whirlwind Horseman is definitely worth an hour of your time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
By the time "Whirlwind Horseman" came out, Ken Maynard was well past
his prime as a major cowboy star, winding down his career with movies
for Grand National and Colony Pictures. Here, Maynard wears one of the
biggest good guy white hats going, as he tries to get to the bottom of
a 'sudden burst of lawlessness' with sidekick Happy (Bill Griffith).
Together they're also trying to locate a missing friend and old timer
named Cherokee Jake (Bud Buster), who's being kept hostage by the bad
guys for the location of an oil discovery. The villains are terrorizing
all the local ranchers until they can determine where the actual oil
well is so they can turn in their own claim on it.
The set up for this one is about as standard as they come and the effort is fairly unremarkable. The print I viewed was hampered by some of the darkened day time sequences that plague other Westerns of the era that are somewhat annoying if you haven't seen it before and gotten accustomed to it. There's also the frequent pauses in dialog between characters as if waiting for a cue or for something significant to happen. Maynard himself is involved in his share of those and you find yourself wondering what everyone is waiting around for.
There's one bit of action that stands out, and that's when Sheriff Ken Morton (Maynard) runs a rope across the trail and trips up four horses and riders from the bad guy posse. If you stop to think about it though, there's no way you can believe that one guy can trip up four charging horses with his bare hands (even with gloves on) like that. It's another example of trip wires in use before the PETA folks got involved against cruelty to animals. All the horses got up from this one, but it couldn't have been fun.
The most recognizable baddie in the flick is perennial 'B' oater stand-by, Glenn Strange. I like to think that between him and Stanley Andrews, they appeared in just about every Western ever made in the early days. You watch any classic TV or movie Western prior to the mid 1960's and you'll probably see one or the other, and that's a good thing.
You know, the 'Whirlwind Horseman' wouldn't have been as much without a whirlwind horse. Maynard's light colored palomino was named Tarzan, and watching them gallop across the screen together was one of the thrills of their pictures. Tarzan has some good presence in this flick, even if you never hear his name mentioned.
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