Thursday, January 21, 2016
A Little More Grizzled, But Still the Good Guy
In the 1930s, Buster Crabbe made a name for himself playing heroes such as Tarzan, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. And he was good in these roles--combining his athelticism with a likable personality to bring us a hero we enjoyed rooting for.
Crabbe made his share of Westerns during this time, starring in a series of B-movies in which he played a heroic version of Billy the Kid.
What's interesting about his career, though, was that has he grew older, he was able to put on a tougher and more grizzled persona--a character type he handled quite well. In fact, in 1965's The Bounty Killer, he is legitimately scary as a brutal outlaw.
A few years before this, in Gunfighters of Abilene (1960), he's still a good guy, but at age 52, definitely tougher-looking and more grizzled than Flash Gordon ever was. In this film, he's is estranged from his brother because of his reputation as a professional gunfighter.
So Kip has enemies on both sides. The small ranchers think his brother stole their money, ruining them. They also figure Kip is probably in on the theft. The large landowner--effectively played by Barton MacLane--wants Kip dead before Kip can find out what really happened to Gene.
To uncover the truth, Kip has to play detective. Along the way, he also has to deal with an attempt to frame him for murder.
The movie is a little too slowly paced and the final shoot-out has some awkward choreography. But to steal a phrase from a comment on IMDB, it's "unfussy and authentic," telling its story in an interesting and straightforward manner. And there are several plot twists I enjoy--the most notable one being what happens when an apparent lynch mob snatches Kip out of jail. I like Russell Thorson's portrayal of the town's strict but honest marshal and Rachel Ames is good as the love interest. Though, frankly, I think Kip should have been more interested in the Mexican hotel clerk who risks her life to tell the truth about Kip's brother. Played by Eugenia Paul, she is so pretty that it is literally painful to look at her.
This one is available on Amazon Prime if you're a subscriber.