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Wild Horse Phantom which incidentally has nothing to do with wild
horses opens in what you would think is a modern setting in a prison.
Some stock footage from a prison picture is used showing Kermit Maynard
and his gang escaping. But it's all part of a plan set up by Buster
Crabbe so that Maynard will lead the gang to the loot he stashed from
his last job.
For some reason some kid is forced to come along even though he's not part of the gang and he's shot when he wants to go back. As he's a friend of Crabbe's sidekick Al St. John that makes it personal.
At the same time a skinflint banker is trying to foreclose on ranches in the area. It was his bank that got robbed and the depositors were those said ranchers. They can't pay on their mortgages so he's cleaning up.
All the action takes place in an old mine where Maynard stashed the loot and where everybody's looking for it.
The inconsistencies of time and place are really bad even for a poverty row PRC release. At the same time the comedy of Al St. John truly redeems this film somewhat. Fuzzy's fight with Bela Lugosi's Devil Bat also a PRC release is hilarious. Might be worth tuning in for that alone.
Wild Horse Phantom starts off in modern times with a prison break for
Kermit Maynard and his gang of heavies. In one of those strange time
warps popular in the forties, they're dropped off by the getaway car
into a frontier western setting where the rest of the movie takes place
amidst oil lamps and horses.
Following the outlaws to a dark mine where the gang's loot is stashed, Billy and Fuzzy encounter a possibly insane cackling miner and other creepy plot devices in their quest to apprehend the escaped convicts and recover the money before the local bank forecloses on the property of the local ranchers from whom the cash had been stolen.
One of the best (and best known) of Producers Releasing Corporation's Billy Carson series, this is the only episode set in contemporary times.
Aided by better than usual writing and direction, Buster Crabbe and Al St. John are at the top of their game here.
The film's highlight has Fuzzy being attacked by the title prop from the P.R.C. produced Bela Lugosi vehicle, The Devil Bat. Fuzzy bites it in the butt!
"Wild Horse Phantom" is the only film in this series of "Billy Carson"
westerns that is set in the modern (1940's) West. Or is for a short
time only. It opens with PRC stock shots of a prison break, with
searchlights, tommy-guns, electric light fixtures in the Warden's
office and a getaway car for the five escaping convicts. Once the
convicts trade the car for horses, it all back to the 1880-90's West
the rest of the series is set in.
This one has Billy Carson (Buster Crabbe),following instructions from the Governor, and the Prison Warden (John Elliott) watching over a planned-by-them prison break by a convict, Link Daggett (Kermit Maynard) and his gang members, Kallen (Frank Ellis), Moffett (Frank McCarroll) and Lucas (Bob Cason), and they also force a young convict with only a short time to serve, Tom Hanlon (Robert Meredith), to go along with them. The only reason for the fifth man seems to be just to give Daggett a chance to show how bad he is by shooting him in the back when he rides off to return to prison. But the kid lives long enough to crawl to a cabin and, there, finds Fuzzy Jones (Al St. John), and dies in his arms. Fuzzy, in addition to being Billy's sidekick, is also Hanlon's cousin, and this gives Fuzzy, besides stretching coincidence to the max, a chance to enact a dramatic scene.
Anyhow, it seems that Daggett and his gang robbed a bank of $100,000 and were caught and sent to prison, but the money wasn't recovered. This bank also was not a member of the FDIC, and now all the ranchers around Piedpont face eviction and loss of their mortgaged property by the banker whose bank was robbed, and they could have covered these notes and mortgages if this uninsured bank had not been robbed and they all lost their savings and seed-milk-and-egg money in the robbery. And the banker (Hal Price) wants his money or their property.
So, the gang is allowed to break prison( via 1940's stock footage) and Billy is going to follow them and recover the stolen money.
This 'un has way too much plot. That's what happens when the two writers, George W. Sayre and Milt Raison, share just one billing credit as George Milton. Complications arise when the gang heads for the "Wild Horse" mine, where the loot was hidden in a tunnel wall, and the loot is no longer there. But this mine has lots of tunnels, so Link decides he forgot just which tunnel he hid it in. But it turns out he had the right tunnel, but the rancher who lives around the corner and up the hill, Ed Garnet (Budd Buster), has been poking around the mine and has a finders-keepers attitude regarding the money he found hidden there.
Billy and Fuzzy come along, get captured, escape, get captured again, escape again and there is a series of in-and-out of the tunnels Keystone Kop chases, or as close as one can get when there are only two tunnels involved and the camera has to be moved from one side or the other to give the impression of more tunnels. Plus, one of the fake bats-on-a-wire from PRC's "Devil Bat" feature gets a cameo, and Fuzzy gets to play scared-for-laughs some.
This one is watched only when the viewer doesn't have a B-western from Republic, Universal, Columbia, Monogram, Victory, Reliable, or Normandy to watch. Viewed in that context, it's okay.
This is a great "B" film. It reminds me of one of the Abbott and Costello films where they encounter horror situations. Al (Fuzzy) St. John provides comic relief as Buster Crabbe plays a dashing Billy Carson complete with one-liners. Worth seeking out.
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