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ARIZONA BUSHWHACKERS (director: Lesley Selander; screenwriters: Steve Fisher/story by Fisher & Andrew Craddock; cinematographer: Les Shorr; editor: John Schreyer; music: Jimmie Haskell; cast: Howard Keel (Lee Travis), Yvonne De Carlo (Jill), John Ireland (Dan Shelby), Marilyn Maxwell (Molly), Scott Brady (Tom Rile), Brian Donlevy (Mayor Smith), James Craig (Ike Clanton), Regis Parton (Curly), Eric Cody (bushwhacker), Barton MacLane (Sheriff Grover), Roy Rogers Jr. (Roy), (James Cagney (Narrator); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: A. C. Lyles; Paramount; 1968)
A celebrated but has-been cast is stuck with a bad narrative.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Routine western directed with efficiency by Lesley Selander(“Lone Ranger”/”Shotgun”/”Desert Sands”). This was Selander’s swan song in films. A celebrated but has-been cast is stuck with a bad narrative by Steve Fisher. It’s based on the story by Fisher and Andrew Craddock.

In 1865, Lee Travis (Howard Keel), a Confederate POW, is pardoned when he agrees to work on behalf of the Union in enforcing the law. Lee is made sheriff of the lawless frontier town of Colton, Arizona, taking over from the ineffective corrupt sheriff Grover (Barton MacLane). The mayor (Brian Donlevy) wanted the change to get law and order.

The town is run by saloon owner Tom Rile (Scott Brady). He sends three henchmen to bushwhack the new sheriff as he enters town. But Travis, a former Mississippi riverboat gambler and gunfighter, foils their plans and the three are killed in gunfights.

Travis is also a Reb spy and makes contact with the millinery shop owner Jill (Yvonne De Carlo), who tells him that he must deliver stored arms in town to a supply-needy nearby band of Confederate soldiers.

The one-armed deputy is Dan Shelby (John Ireland), an embittered Union soldier wounded in the war. Dan obsesses over Jill and hates Travis for being a Reb and attracting Jill.

Travis takes over Rile’s saloon when he beats him in dice, and then closes the joint and throws him out of town. Molly (Marilyn Maxwell), the bar girl, tells the sheriff that Rile is selling weapons to renegade Apaches. It ends with an Indian raid on Colton foiled and the war declared over.

James Cagney gives an opening narration. Roy’s son, Roy Rogers Jr., makes his only film appearance.

The cheaply made B western is forgettable, but the star-studded cast should catch the interest of some viewers.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”