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Rollin', Rollin', Rollin', 21 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Wagon Tracks" is basically a covered wagon film featuring the legendary William S. Hart.

"Buckskin" Hamilton (Hart) a frontiersman, is headed east to meet up with his younger brother Billy (Leo Pierson) who has just graduated medical school. Billy has gotten himself into a poker game on a river boat with gamblers David Washburn (Robert McKim) and Guy Merton (Lloyd Bacon). Billy catches Washburn cheating and in the ensuing struggle is shot dead. Washburn's sister Jane (the lovely Jane Novak) who was present is convinced by her brother that she pulled the trigger during the struggle.

Buckskin arrives and learns of the tragedy but has his doubts about the guilt of the young and innocent looking Jane. As it happens all four principles are travelling west on the same wagon train. Buckskin is recommended Captain of the train by fellow frontiersman Brick Muldoon (Bert Sprotte).

Buckskin suspects that one of the two gamblers is responsible for his brother's death. Along the way, one of the wagons carrying half of the train's water is wrecked and the train is forced to ration the remaining water. Later the train is visited by a group of Indians and one of their number is shot down by a pioneer believing that Jane is in danger. The Chief demands an "eye for an eye" otherwise the they will attack.

During all of this, Buckskin decides to force his brother's killer to reveal himself. He forces Washburn and Merton to "take a walk" with him across the wasteland thereby forcing the innocent man to reveal the true killer. But then...............................................

Hart was known for the authenticity in his films. His costume was probably an authentic costume of the times. The other principles are equally realistically costumed. I'm not certain, but this film could have been the first covered wagon film pre-dating "The Covered Wagon" by four years.

Although Hart was romantically involved with Novak at the time, there is no romance as such in this story. There is little action outside of the murder and the finale of the film. And, whatever happened to the Indian attack?

There's Gold in Them Thar Hills!, 20 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Johnny Mack Brown is "The Sheriff of Medicine Bow" in this Brown/ Raymond Hatton western. Hatton plays ex-convict Banty Prentiss whom Johnny has recommended for parole after having jailed him years earler for bank robbery.

Banty returns to town and he and Johnny go to Banty's ranch where we meet his fiery young daughter Nan (Evelyn Finlay). We learn that Nan is about to lose the ranch for failure to pay the taxes for the last few years and that she holds a grudge against Johnny for having jailed her father.

Meanwhile we learn that slick banker Barry Stuart (Bill Kennedy) is eager to foreclose on the ranch because of gold found on the property. But, Banty has a bankroll that allows Nan to race to town to pay the debt. On the way she is attacked by Stuart's henchies including Buckeye (George J. Lewis), Pardo (Peter Perkins), Grogan (Carol Henry) and Duke (Bob Woodward). Nan pays the back taxes so Stuart has to find other ways to acquire the property.

Prospector Alibi (Max Terhune) and his "pal" Elmer discover gold on the Prentiss ranch in "them thar hills". The samples are taken to assayer Jim Carson (Frank LaRue) for analysis. However Carson is in with Stuart and gives Johnny and Banty a false report. Johnny, smelling a rat has his deputy takes the ore samples to another town for assay. The results prove positive which forces Stuart's hand and..................................

This entry in the long running series is one of the better ones. The inclusion of Terhune and "Elmer" in the cast as comic relief enhances the film. Evelyn Finlay is good (and not hard to look at) as the feisty daughter. I always liked George J. Lewis and he doesn't disappoint here. His fight with Brown is a highlight. I was disappointed with Bill Kennedy as the chief villain. He didn't impress me as the ruthless banker. And where, by the way, did Banty get all the dough used to pay off the back taxes?

Lots of "blazing action". An enjoyable little opus.

Johnny Get Angry, Johnny Get Mad!, 18 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Frontier Agent" is another of the long running Johnny Mack Brown/Raymond Hatton dusters and one of the first in which Brown uses his full name for his character.

Johnny is a trouble shooter for the Overland Telegrasph Company who we meet chasing down baddie Sullivan (Marshal Reed). Following Sullivan's capture, Johnny is ready for a long awaited vacation, but boss Dell Carson (Frank LaRue) has other ideas. It seems rancher Jim Kerrigan (Ted Adams)has convinced the company to allow him to complete the telegraph line into the town of Baxter Springs. But Kerrigan is wounded and hospitalized and Johnny is sent to clear things up.

Land speculator Burton Whitlock (Kenneth MacDonald) will lose a bundle if the line goes through. He blackmails former rustler Larry Foster (Dennis Moore) into helping him disrupt things. Foster is engaged to Kerrigan's daughter Sandra (Reno Blair) while ranch hand Joe Farr (Riley Hill) pines for her. Old timer Cappy (Hatton) teams up with Johnny to expose the villains. They immediately suspect Foster but cannot prove anything.

Johnny is framed for one of Foster's men's escape from prison but escapes from the custody of the Marshal (Wm. H. Ruhl) with the help of Joe and Cappy. Finally Foster is forced to reveal himself to Sandra. Johnny deals with Foster and the learns that Wheelock is behind all the trouble and...........................................

In an unusual twist, we are treated to a fight between two of the secondary characters (Foster and Farr) although Johnny is forced to intervene. Johnny has a couple of go rounds the best of which is with Reed at the beginning of the film. Although he used stuntmen, Brown was still able to hold his own in the fight scenes. He was a also at home in the saddle as the many chase scenes in his films will attest.

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch!, 18 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Another in the long running budget conscious series of oaters from Monogram starring Johnny Mack Brown and Raymond Hatton.

In this one Johnny plays Ranger Johnny Brown. As the story opens, Johnny is chasing down fugitive Sinclair (I. Stanford Jolley) for the suspected murder of a fellow Ranger. Sinclair takes a fatal fall while trying to escape. Before he dies Sinclair names his cousin Heck (frequent Brown baddie Marshall Reed) as the real killer and that he has a 10 year old son Dave (Charlie Hughes) whom he asks Johnny to protect.

After Johnny places the boy with the Rangers, he goes to the Henderson ranch to seek a job. With the help of old timer Banty (Hatton) he gets hired despite the protest of Hack. Johnny soon gains the confidence of ranch owner Ward Henderson (Steve Clark) and points out Hack's evil intentions. It seems that Sinclair and Hack were in line to inherit the ranch upon Henderson's death. Hack tries to expedite this.

Ranch hand Gill (Eddie Parker) is caught by Johnny trying to cut the fences in order to rustle Henderson's cattle. He is held captive at the ranch but later escapes. Hack arranges to accompany Henderson with ten grand to purchase more cattle but also arranges for Gill and the boys to attack and rob the old man. But Johnny and Banty foil the robbery.

Later Henderson now suspecting Hack rides the range with him but is shot by the gang. Before he dies Henderson changes his will to name young Dave as his heir and Johnny as his guardian. Hack's attempt to ambush young Dave when returning from the Ranger Headquarters fails which forces Hack into desperate action and...........................................

One of the better Brown/Hatton films where most of the action takes place in the great outdoor. Johnny manages to get into a couple of fights and there's plenty of gunplay to boot. Christine Larson plays Julie Sinclair Dave's mother and veteran Milburn Morante is along for comedy relief as the ranch cook.

As an aside, although the story centers around a cattle ranch, we don't see any actual cattle except for a stock shot of a herd when Johnny goes to check on them.

Here's Johnny!, 6 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The Law Comes to Gunsight" is another of those low budget little westerns starring Johnny Mack Brown and Raymond Hatton. In a rare occurrence in a "B" western, the title actually does relate to the story.

Johnny Mackey (Brown) is riding to the town of Gunsight when he meets gunfighter Pecos (Lee Roberts) who tries to steal his horse. Pecos is accidentally killed in the fight with Johnny. Johnny then meets up with young Bud Hartley (Lanny Rees)who is going for help for his sister and their ranch. Johnny takes the boy home and meets Bud's sister Judy (Reno Blair) who thanks him for bringing the Bud safely home.

When Johnny arrives in town with Pecos' horse in tow, the blacksmith (Kermit Maynard) finds Pecos' identification papers and mistakes Johnny for Pecos. Johnny gets into a scuffle with Brad Foster (William Ruhl) and his henchmen Drago (Zon Murray) and Blackie (Gary Garrett). Crooked Mayor Jim Blaine (Frank LaRue) who had sent for Pecos, appoints Johnny as Town Marshall and an old sourdough miner Reno (Hatton)whom he's befriended, as his Deputy.

It seems that Foster and Blaine are at odds over the town's gambling rights. First Johnny and Reno concentrate on Foster and his gang who try unsuccessfully to murder Johnny. Johnny and Reno round up Foster and his gang and jail them. Blaine meanwhile tries to buy "Pecos" off but Johnny reveals his true identity and orders Blaine and his cohort Bert Simpson (Ernie Adams) "to get out of town by sundown or..."

Blaine meanwhile tries to join forces with Foster by aiding him to escape. But then.............

Given the limited budget, this film is nonetheless an entertaining hour, There's plenty of "hard ridin'" and gun play. In an unusual twist, we have two opposing gangs instead of the regular one. There's no second lead to romance the heroine but rather, we have a boy to appeal to the youngsters. It was nice to see one of my old favorites, Kermit Maynard in a small role.

By the way, just what was Johnny doing riding into town. His presence is never really explained. But hey, this was poverty row and they didn't have to explain.

Bess, You is my Woman!, 4 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Code of the Saddle" (whatever that is) is an ultra low budget Johnny Mack Brown/Raymond Hatton entry in their long running series. This time around they are riding as partners.

The story has Johnny Macklin O(Brown) and Winks (Hatton), having been sent by their boss to investigate a range war, arriving at the Slack ranch where they are confronted by Bill Stace (Riley Hill). Bill invites the pair to the ranch where Bill's father Buck (Ted Adams) explains the situation. It seems that the Bentham ranch is scheming to take over the smaller ranches in the area. That night unknown assailants attack the Stace ranch and Buck is killed.

Subsequent investigation by Johnny and Winks uncovers a plot by local sheriff Wallace (Wm. Norton Bailey) to take over the Bentham ranch for himself and force the smaller ranchers out. Bentham's daughter Bess (Kay Morley) explains to Johnny what is up. Meanwhile Bess' father and ranch hands are attacked and killed by Wallace men. Johnny, Winks and Bill are arrested for murder but....................................

There's a lot of references to cattle in this opus however not a single steer is seen. Although Brown and Hatton are comfortable in their roles, the film is weakened by the weak supporting cast. With the exception of the lovely Morley, the rest of the cast can't act worth a damn.

Bailey as the sheriff is to old for his part and its probably no mistake that I never heard of him. I expected better from veteran Zon Murray as Rubio, the chief deputy. Gary Garrett as Randall another deputy, is OK. Old timer Bud Osborne as Bentham's foreman Stubby is wasted in a brief appearance. Riley Hill also has been better but at least he gets the girl (Bess you is my woman!).

Sharp eyed viewers will notice the gaff where Johnny locks up the bad guys in the same cell where he had just blown the lock with gun powder while escaping in a previous scene.

Entertaining Brown/Hatton Western!, 27 February 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Law of the Lawless" is another of Monogram's Johnny Mack Brown/Raymond Hatton series westerns. In this one the boys are not hero/sidekick. Hatton is Bodie a concerned citizen who summons "Johnny Mack" (Brown) to help the town of Medicine Flats get rid of a gang of gamblers cheating its citizens out of their hard earned money and to avenge the murder of his friend Henry Adams.

The gang is headquartered in the Golden Spur Saloon run by, now get this, Kansas City Kate (Christine McIntyre). Together with her cohorts Cameo Carson (Tristram Coffin), Yuma (Marshall Reed) and Clem (Gary Garrett), they have amassed quite a bankroll by cheating their customers.

After conferring with Bodie, Jason (Steve Clark), Dave (Cactus Mack sans mustache) among others, Johnny agrees to take on the job of exposing the gang. Bodie re-discovers an old hiding place beneath the saloon where he overhears the gang's plans to move their loot to an outside bank. Johnny and his friends foil the gang's attempts to move the money.

Saloon girl Donna (June Harrison) who is fending off Cameo's advances decides to help Johnny by warning him of the gang's intentions.

Cameo discovers Bodie and Johnny's hiding place and Yuma confronts Bodie and shoots him in the back (the dirty rat). Johnny forces Clem to reveal where Yuma has fled and goes after him for retribution. Meanwhile Cameo decides to "get out of here" and tries to run off with the contents of Kate's safe. However, he is caught by Kate and............................

The film moves along quite briskly. There are a couple of fights, one between Johnny and Yuma and a dandy one between Johnny and Cameo at the film's climax. There is also the requisite shootouts between the opposing gangs as well.

The cast is full of recognizable faces. In addition to those already mentioned, we have Edmund Cobb as a miner who strikes it rich and I. Stanford Jolley as gunfighter "The Cherokee Kid".

An entertaining 54 minutes.

Johnny Mack???....Really?, 24 February 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Flashing Guns" in spite of it's promising title, is a bit of a yawner. It lacks colorful bad guys the likes of Charlie King or Dick Curtis and doesn't have a single fist fight unusual for a series western). There is no boy/girl relationship and stars Johnny Mack Brown and Raymond Hatton do not play hero/sidekick.

Hatton plays a rancher Amos Shelby who is about to lose his seedy looking ranch to crooked banker Ainsworth. He sends his son Freddie (Riley Hill) to town to inform Ainsworth that his father's note will be paid on time. But it seems that Freddie has a gambling debt. Saloon owner Longdon (Douglas Evens) arranges to have Freddie's sister Ann (Jan Bryant) robbed of the cash she is bringing from an out of town bank to pay of her father's debt.

But just at that very moment Johnny Mack (Brown) comes along to help the young girl. Meanwhile, Freddie is lured into a poker game by gambler Ripley (believe it or not) where he loses the rest of his father's money. Johnny arrives to help and recovers the money.

It seems that high grade silver has been discovered on Shelby's land. Ainsworth has Longdon forge Shelby's signature on Shelby's note showing the due date as having passed. The rest of the movie has Johnny trying to save the ranch and straighten Freddie out. There are a couple of "flashing gun" battles that follow until the criminals are brought to justice and everybody lives happily ever after.

Again, I found the villains to be a dull bunch. Competent western veterans Edmund Cobb (the sheriff) and Steve Clark (Cannon) who are in the cast, would have made more formidable bad guys. And Norman Jolley who plays Mike Foley Johnny's pal doesn't even have a line. And how about Brown's character's name....Johnny Mack.....Really?

Johnny Who??????, 21 February 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A couple of oddities about "Trailing Danger", another of the Johnny Mack Brown/Raymond Hatton westerns. Firstly Brown doesn't use a surname. Up to this point he always had a surname, albeit not his own. Secondly, the movie opens seemingly in the middle of the story. Rancher "Johnny" rides into town and discusses with stage superintendent George Bannister (Steve Darrell) ways of foiling robberies being carried out by a gang of outlaws headed by Jim Holden (Marshall Reed). I guess in order to save money, Monogram chose to eliminate showing the back story.

Any way Holden is captured in a trap set by Bannister and is sentenced to hang. His gang which includes Eddie Parker and Bud Osborne break him out of jail. Instead of running for it Holden chooses to pursue Bannister to exact his revenge. Banniater is travelling by stage along with the brash young Hall Hathaway (Patrick Desmond), the son of the stage line owner, Paradise Flo (Bonnie Jean Hartley, Bannister's niece Kay (Peggy Wynne) and coffin maker Pennypacker (Ernie Adams). Johnny and Waco (Hatton) pursue the coach in order to warn Bannister.

Bannister and Hathaway managed to get captured by Holden who promises to hang the pair. Johnny and Waco attempt to free the men. Hathaway suddenly finds his back bone and assists the pair. Several gun battles ensue and Holden is brought to justice.

This film is like most in the series is full of "blazing action". Plenty of shoot outs and a well staged knock down drag out fight between Brown and Reed and their doubles. There really isn't a heroine although a romance appears to develop between Hathaway and Bannister's niece Kay (Peggy Wynne).

Veteran sagebrusher Cactus Mack appears as the stage driver and I Stanford Jolley as Murphy, the inside man.. And watch for the sequence where Brown and Hatton are riding across the hills where their holsters are reversed from right to left.

What Gentleman From Texas?, 19 February 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Another of Monogram's Johnny Mack Brown/Raymond Hatton westerns. It's not a bad way to spend an hour. Brown and Hatton had played under cover marshals over the past few years. In 1946 they began playing different characters.

Brown plays Wells Fargo investigator Johnny Macklin who has been sent to the town of Rim Rock to find out who is behind a series of robberies in the area. It doesn't take long for him to discover that oily saloon owner Steve Corbin (Tristram Coffin) is the boss of the operation. With the help of newspaper editor Idaho Foster (Hatton), his daughter Diane (Reno Browne) and Mayor Tom Jamison (Steve Clark), he begins his work.

The Mayor appoints Johnny sheriff and Idaho as his deputy. Meanwhile Corbin and his two men, Duke Carter (Marshall Reed) and Ace Jenkins (Terry Frost) are behind two murders, one a miner and another who accused Corbin of cheating at cards. Kitty Malone (Claudia Drake) and Flo Vickert (Christine McIntyre) compete for Corbin's affections. Johnny has a knock down drag out fight with Duke to establish his authority. Kitty takes a liking to Johnny and warns him of impending danger.

Corbin sets a trap for Johnny and Kitty but things don't go as planned. Following a gun battle with Corbin's men Johnny confronts Corbin and Duke at the saloon and.................................

As in many "B" westerns of the day, the picture's title has nothing to do with the plot. First, unless I missed it, there is NO Gentleman from Texas, in fact I don't think the word "Texas" is even mentioned. Brown as most western fans know was from Alabama.

Brown's westerns were always entertaining and full of action and Hatton was one of the most popular of sidekicks. Christine McIntyre was a member of the unofficial Three Stooges stock company of the time and appeared in several of their comedies. Veteran baddie Pierce Lyden appears as a hired gunman. Claudia Drake sings a couple of forgettable songs and Curt Barrett and his Trail Blazers liven things up with a couple of jumpy little tunes.

A competent little western.

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