Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fight 'em One-Handed!

Avenging Rider (1943) gets off to an admittedly weak start--since it depends on Tim Holt's character (Brit Marshall) getting fooled by a gang of gold thieves a little too easily. This lands Brit and his sidekick (Cliff "Ukelele Ike" Edwards) in the slammer, falsely accused of robbery and murder.

Fortunately, the script allows Holt to start acting intelligently again. He needs to figure out a way to clear himself and his friends. As is always the case in B-movies, the best plan is for Holt and Cliff to bust jail and find the real crooks. In fact, unless I miscounted, they get captured on three separate occasions throughout this 55-minute film, only to manage an escape each time. Might as well put a revolving door on that jail cell. It's worse than Arkham Asylum.

That's not a complaint, though. The movie is a lot of fun, with several nifty action set-pieces and (after Holt's initial stupidity) a solid script.

There's a neat plot device used in this one. When the four real robbers ask a crooked banker to hide the stolen gold, they want something to guarantee their claim to the loot. Rather understandably, the banker doesn't want to give them a signed receipt. Instead, he divides a playing card into five pieces. He'll keep one piece and anyone showing up with another piece can claim a share of the gold.

Naturally, these playing card fragments become an important clue while Holt is tracking the villains and trying to figure out what's going on.

One of the action scenes, by the way, is particularly fun. Holt, who has a wounded arm, gets into a fist fight with a crooked gambler. He has to fight one-handed, but manages to curb stomp the gambler even while under this disadvantage.

Avenging Rider has all the elements you expect from a solid B-Western: Likable heroes, despicable bad guys, nice location photography, a good story and some humor. The sidekick is reasonably funny, but the best laughs come from the dimwitted deputy that Holt and Cliff are continually tricking into allowing them to escape.

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