This film finds Ken Baxter and his two pals, Pancho and Panhandle, finding Professor Wahl, injured and wandering on the range. They take him to Blue Mesa Trading Post, where two archaeologists, Dr. Floto and Baron Starkoff, foreign government representatives, are staying. Both want to secure control of a supply of helium gas found in an ancient Indian cave. Wahl, working for the Federal Government, is murder at the Blue Mesa. The land strip on which the cave is located is claimed by Letty and Jim Morgan, brother and sister owners of the Lazy Y Ranch. Tin Cup Ranch owner Joe Larkin hires Ken to take possession of a cabin on the Morgan land in order to gain title. Ken, an undercover G-Man, discovers a secret passageway from the cabin that leads to the cave and discovers the helium, and also that Larkin is working with Starkoff. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
What I've read about Ken Maynard on IMDb and wikipedia makes it sound like he was a real jerk. Rarely have I read biographies of actors where they were more hated and more self-destructive than this movie cowboy. Heck in the IMDb biography, it says 'To never have met Maynard was reportedly a blessing'!! But, because he was so unpleasant he ended up going from an A-list actor with a huge salary in 1935 to a bum who worked for a tiny fraction only a few short years later. Here in "Death Rides the Range", instead of being in a top picture for a top studio (commanding $10,000 a picture), he's in a film that cost only $15,000 to make and he was paid a reported $1500. Talk about karma! It did get worse--by the mid-1940s he was getting only $800 a film....if he could find work at all.
So is it possible to make a good film for only $15,000? Maybe, though this film would make it seem that the answer is a definite NO! The problems are many--and the worst is the quality of the supporting characters. Several seem illiterate and a little addle-brained in front of the camera and it just looks like the tiny studio would put any one in the film provided they didn't want much money!! Rarely (and this includes Ed Wood movies) have I seen such bad acting. Additionally, the terrible writing didn't help. While the basic story idea is interesting, how it was handled was just completely inept. All in all, a very bad film--one that I had a hard time completing.
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