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Very shortly after doing the Magnificent Ambersons, Tim Holt was making
Bandit Ranger, one of his innumerable and indistinguishable Westerns.
They were all pretty enjoyable, and short enough not to outstay their
welcome, and this is no exception. Holt is very young for a rancher,
but has the screen presence to overcome this handicap.
The plot is absolutely routine: Holt uncovers a murder, for which he is blamed, and has to clear his name while simultaneously keeping a pretty girl out of danger. The girl, as is traditional in this plot, doesn't know Holt, and so he has to win her trust ... and maybe love? This is the plot of dozens of Holt films; here the part of the idiot sidekick is played, not by Richard Martin who came along later, but Cliff Edwards - more of a clown in his Ukelele Ike role, and he has a couple of nice musical numbers. The baddies are bad and plausible. The girl (Joan Barclay) is a bit dim. The twist where the bad guys turn the tables on Tim Holt is a clever one.
All in all, very entertaining in its lower case way.
Although this is a Tim Holt western, the title role is played by
perennial western villain LeRoy Mason who plays a killer who shoots
down a Texas Ranger and steals his badge and identity. It is rancher
Tim Holt who hears the shooting and comes to a dying Dennis Moore who
points Holt to a moneybelt he was wearing that Mason and his henchmen
didn't notice. It contains a letter of identification and some money
that he was carrying for his sister Joan Barclay who was meeting him in
Holt does not expose Mason when he brings in Moore's body, he's hoping in some way that Mason will lead him to who's doing a lot of cattle rustling. But that proves a little too clever and Mason turns the table on him and it's Tim that's wanted for Moore's murder.
This was usually the kind of gambit you might more often find in a Roy Rogers western although usually played for a little more humor. Nevertheless Tim does carry it off.
Cliff Edwards whose career had a renaissance of sorts when he introduced When You Wish Upon A Star for Walt Disney in Pinnochio is playing the sidekick role for Tim Holt. That's another thing you would find in a Rogers western, a sidekick who was too stupid to know what was going on so Holt would have to explain his moves to him and the audience. Andy Devine was usually just such a sidekick in many Roy Rogers films of the Forties.
Again a quality B western from RKO for Tim Holt.
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