"Seminole Uprising" director Earl Bellamy's western "Toughest Gun in Tombstone" pits square-jawed George Montgomery against dastardly Jim Davis in a historically inaccurate horse opera. Our virtuous hero has gone undercover as an outlaw to thwart a silver smuggling ring operating in southern Arizona. Nothing about his sagebrusher is remotely memorable.
Matt Sloane (George Montgomery of "Riders of the Purple Saga") is known throughout the Arizona Territory as an outlaw who prefers to hold up stagecoaches. As it turns out, Matt got his start back east in Texas, but the bad guys murdered his wife. Terry (Scotty Morrow of "Red Sundown") has run away from protective custody and is struggling to find his father. Meantime, an owlhoot is riding in hot pursuit because the eagle-eyed tyke saw him shoot his mom. Terry was in Phoenix when he was recognized by the varmint. He is picked up after he collapses in the middle of the road to Tombstone by a stagecoach. Two ladies get him aboard the stagecoach, but neither believes the outrageous story that he tells. Della Cooper (Beverly Tyler of "The Palomino") is especially sympathetic toward Terry's plight. When they stop at the stagecoach relay station, the unseen assassin drills a shot through Terry's shoulder and everybody believes the unconscious kid. While all this is going on, Sloane has ridden into Tombstone, stabled his horse, and been assaulted by Johnny Ringo (Jim Davis of "Rio Lobo"), Ike Clanton (Gerald Milton of "Forty Guns"), and Curly Bill Brosius (Lane Bradford of "Showdown in Abilene") in his hotel room because they believe that he held up a silver shipment on a stagecoach. Ringo allows Matt to remain in town. Later, after Ringo and his minions leave, Joe Barger (Harry Lauter of "The Three Outlaws") arrives and warns Matt about the disappearance of his son. Della takes Terry into her care. She has just joined her father in Tombstone. Della's dad David Cooper (Don Beddoe of "The Night of the Hunter") is the assayer in Tombstone. After Terry settles in with Della, Matt is summoned to a secret meeting with the Territorial Governor (William Forrest) who must have a report from the newly formed Arizona Raiders because Washington, D.C. , is demanding action. Unless Matt and his guns can clean up the Territoral, President Chester A. Arthur will deny it statehood.
Clocking in at a trim 72 minutes, "The Toughest Gun in Tombstone" is straightforward shoot'em up. Matt poses as an outlawn, but he doesn't infiltrate the gang. He scrambles from one secret meeting to another and chats with local lawman in Mexico on occasion as he tries to ferret out what Ringo is up to here. Johnny Ringo wants his henchmen to watch Matt, but they have a hard time of keeping up with him. Eventually, they shoot it out at a railroad station where Matt has gone to send a coded telegram. The biggest mystery here involves Ringo's boss. He lures in the shadows, but it comes as no surprise when he exposes himself near the end. For the record, Ike Clanton survived the gunfight a the O.K. Corral while Johnn Ringo and Curly Bill were around to tangle with Wyatt Earp. There is no Wyatt Earp here so Bellamy and "Train to Tombstone" scenarist Orville H. Hampton have tampered with history to spin their yarn. There is very little depth to his western, negligible dialogue, but an adolescent is shot at and wounded. Of course, our stalwart hero saves the day.
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