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Though produced on a shoestring, this Buster Crabbe/Al St. John outing
has some good lines with an interesting plot. I use the term low budget
kindly. For example, if the viewer notices when the chases take place,
the horsemen pass the same clump of trees four or five times. At the
end of one of the chases, Henchman Joe Dayton (John Cason), is tied to
one of the trees in the clump by Billy Carson (Buster Crabbe). So the
wide open spaces were somewhat confined on the set used.
Fuzzy Q. Jones (St. John) this go around is a psychic, a swami with a crystal ball, who is told by an Indian spirit, Standing Pine, that a certain land claim has gold on it. Fuzzy asks the wraith, "Where are you standing, Pine?" and the fun begins. Seems the outlaws are in a room next door to Fuzzy's, speaking through a tube that connects to a speaker hole where the would-be swami is standing tall. Fuzzy's pal, Billy Carson rides into town. When Fuzzy tells him part of the story about the spirit, Carson goads him, " A spirit. Fuzz, you better keep that cork in the bottle. Those spirits are going to get you in trouble." He's right about that. The rest of the film involves Billy Carson, working with the sheriff, trying to round up the spirits and put them in jail before they swindle Fuzzy and his backers (most of the town) out of their hard earned money.
Fuzzy is always a joy to behold. A master of slapstick comedy from the silent film days, Fuzzy could take a pratfall with the best of them. I would vote him next to Gabby Hayes as one of the best cowboy sidekicks ever. Athletic Buster Crabbe was a fine action hero for many a movie. There are also some of the meanest bad guys in the B westerns to provide the cause for the chases and fisticuffs. There's action aplenty with some good stunt work as a bonus.
If you enjoy action-packed cowboy antics with no singing and lots of humor, you should like "Outlaws of the Plains."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched two B Westerns on the Encore Channel this morning and one was
dumber than the other. Both featured Al "Fuzzy" St. John in classic
sidekick roles; here he was paired with the athletic Buster Crabbe. Now
calling these flicks 'dumb' should in no way give you the idea I don't
like them. I'll watch these oaters until I've seen every one, which
will take forever, so you know I have a certain fondness for this kind
of stuff. But just to give you an example, during a shoot-out with the
good guys, outlaw Charles King says to his partner Emery (Jack O'Shea)
- "You hold 'em off while I get away"! Really!?!?
Anyway, even though Buster Crabbe is top billed here as the nominal hero, it's actually Fuzzy who gets most of the screen time in a role in which he communicates with the spirit of a dead Indian named Standing Pine. I thought that was pretty original, but the idea that it was really bad guy Emery talking through an ersatz phone contraption from the very next room behind Fuzzy, well that just defied all credibility. I know these flicks were made for a young matinée audience back in the day, but boy, could kids have been that naive even in the Forties?
So the gimmick has Fuzzy taking instruction from Standing Pine and using the knowledge to make a fifty thousand dollar land purchase where he believes he'll strike it rich in gold. Fuzzy brings in the local ranchers as fellow investors, who have seen his psychic skills at work with prior predictions that have come true. The only one to see through this charade is the venerable Billy Carson (Crabbe), and he does what he needs to in order to smoke out the bad guys. I got a kick out of the way Carson got bad guy Dayton (John L. Cason) to spill the beans on his partners - he slapped him once in the face! Talk about your cruel and unusual interrogation methods!
Appropriately, I guess, the name of the town where all this happens is called Showdown Flats. Carson pulls Fuzzy's fat out of the fire once more in one of your more comical B Westerns and it's entertaining enough. As usual you have your interminable horse chase scenes used as filler, and another reviewer here correctly comments on the riders covering the same ground back and forth. One notation I might make which I couldn't have done if I hadn't just finished reading 'Son of the Morning Star' - in the opening scene Fuzzy conjures up the names of Geronimo and Sitting Bull as potential spirit guides, along with that of Rain-in-the Face. For many years following General George Armstrong Custer's death at the Battle of Little Big Horn, many people believed that the Indian who killed him was a chief named Rain-in-the-Face. I had never heard of him before, but here the name shows up in a Buster Crabbe flick. You just never know.
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