Sunday, October 5, 2008


Tex Archer (Tex Ritter) and his bewhiskered pal Duke Evans (perennial western sidekick Al 'Fuzzy' St. John of "Gentlemen with Guns") are riding along the prairie peaceful like minding their own business when they hear gunfire galore. A gang of dastardly desperados led by trigger-happy Red Holman (Charles King of "Hearts of the West") descend on a procession of freight wagons that belong to George Summers (Jack C. Smith of "The Fighting Deputy") and his daughter Madge (Louise Stanley of "Yukon Flight") on their way to the town of Tonto. These heinous hombres wipe out everybody except Madge and set fire torch two wagons. By the time that Tex and Duke intervene, they are too tardy to make a difference. However, they do manage to scare off Red and his henchmen who flee the scene because they fear that they will be recognized. Madge finds her father shot dead and sprawled on the prairie. Meanwhile, Red and his gunmen hightail it back to town and report to their black-clad, mustached sidewinder of a boss Kalmus (Karl Hackett of "Wild Horse Rustlers") that they have carried out his orders and wiped out the Summers' outfit. Kalmus explains to Red that Summers brought catastrophe on his daughter and himself when he ignored Kalmus' warning. Kalmus gloats smugly over his good fortune. Avariciously, Kalmus assures Red, "Now, with that freight hauling franchise, we're in line to make some fancy money and we can run this community as we see fit." When Red gets word to Kalmus, the latter is smoking a cigarette and having a drink in a saloon owned by a quasi-Judge Roy Bean type called Judge Roy Dean (Robert MacKenzie of "Death Valley Outlaws') and Dean isn't exactly thrilled that Kalmus casually makes use of his saloon as headquarters for his nefarious exploits. "It's liable to get people to thinking things," Dean points out unhappily and refers to Summers and the freighting franchise. Kalmus tells the bartender/judge that everything is okay, but Dean frets that Kalmus' presence in his bar will lead people to think that Dean and Kalmus are friends. Imagine Kalmus' surprise when Tex and Duke show up driving one of the freight wagons with Madge. Initially, Kalmus thinks that Red has double-crossed him, but his top henchmen vows that he would never lie to him. Meanwhile, a grateful Madge thanks Tex for his help before she realizes that she doesn't know her hero's name. "You see," she explains, "I'm almost frantic. Dad put everything that he owned into that freight line and he had to make two trips a week to own the franchise." Tex decides on the spot to help out the damsel in distress. "We'll get a wagon over that line somehow tomorrow, "he cheers her up. When the town lawman, Marshall Tinker (Horace Murphy of "Ghost Valley Raiders") starts asking questions, Madge explains that a gang of ruffians waylaid her father and his men at Rock Pass. Everybody died but her. She points out that Tex and Duke rode to her rescue. When Tex offers to lead a posse to investigate the massacre, Tinker informs him that the town cannot afford to pay for a posse and that strangers shouldn't poke them noses into business that doesn't concern them.

Prolific director Robert N. Bradbury--with 125 low-budget, B-movie westerns to his credit--helmed this concise 59-minue black & white oater for the short-lived, poverty-row studio Grand National. Some of Bradbury's sagebrushers, among them "Westward Ho," "The Dawn Rider," and "Texas Terror," starred John Wayne. Bradbury also directed his son, cowboy star Bob Steele in several horse operas. Tex Ritter warbles about four or five songs, but he wears outfits considerably less ostentatious than Gene Autry. Inevitably, Tex and Red tangle when Red tries to knife Tex in his sleep. Everybody downstairs in the saloon hears a gun discharge and Kalmus rushes to investigate. At first, Kalmus believes that he can railroad Tex for Red's death, but Duke discovers that Red is only wounded—not dead. When Duke escorts Red into the courtroom at gunpoint, Kalmus has one of his assassins kill his second-in-command before the man can reveal the villain's evil deeds. Kalmus convinces Judge Dean that Tex may have had a hand in the massacre. Despite incredible odds and a stacked deck against them, Tex and Duke save Madge's freight line and Kalmus bites the dust. Before Kalmus dies in Tax's arms, he observes,"I knew the first time that I saw you, you'd be tough to beat. You win."

"Sing, Cowboy, Sing" (** out of ****) is one of 20 movie musicals in a 5-pack of DVDs released by Mill Creek Entertainment. The print is scratchy and time has not been kind to it. The dialogue is not synchronized with the actors' mouths because this vintage film has been mercilessly ground up over time by projectors and has lost bits and pieces of film. Nevertheless, for a predictable western, "Sing, Cowboy, Sing" isn't as obnoxious as most musical westerns. Tex Ritter makes a likable enough hero and Fuzzy provides the appropriate comic relief.

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