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ARIZONA CYCLONE (director: Joseph H. Lewis; screenwriter: Sherman L. Lowe; cinematographer: Charles Van Enger; editor: Paul Landres; music: Milton Rosen/Harry Salter; cast: Johnny Mack Brown (Tom Baxter), Fuzzy Knight (Muleshoe), Dick Curtis (Quirt Crenshaw), Herbert Rawlinson (Randolph), Katryn Adams (Elsie Graham), Robert Strange (Adam Draper), Glenn Strange (Jessup), Nell O’Day (Claire Randolph); Runtime: 59; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Will Cowan; Foothill Video; 1941)
“Because of Lewis’ animated direction and innovative camera angles the pic passes muster.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first part of the three film Johnny Mack Brown’s Universal western series directed by the gifted Joseph H. Lewis(“Gun Crazy”/”The Rifleman”/”The Big Combo”), and easily the best one in the series. The black and white shot B-Western is routine and the script by Sherman L. Lowe is formulaic, but because of Lewis’ animated direction and innovative camera angles the pic passes muster.

The frontier story revolves around a freight line war for government contracts between the honest outfit owned by Randolph (Herbert Rawlinson) and his young sharpshooter daughter Claire (Nell O’Day) and the villainous Crenshaw (Dick Curtis), who is capable of doing anything to win the contracts. The thuggish Crenshaw is secretly owned by corrupt banker Draper (Robert Strange), who illegally bought the freight line with his depositor’s money. Meanwhile rugged cowboy Tom Baxter (Johnny Mack Brown) is the wagon master for Randolph, and so far has been able to hold off Crenshaw’s attempts to sabotage his freight line. Muleshoe (Fuzzy Knight) is Tom’s illiterate sidekick, who is busy comically taking snake charm medicines to become a better man.

When Crenshaw’s hired gunslingers from Abilene, led by Jessup (Glenn Strange), ambush Randolph on the trail and force the young Claire to run the company, things look dim. But under Tom’s guidance, the freight line is about to get the valued contract by the government for its new telegraph lines, when Crenshaw’s boys attack Claire’s ranch and try to kill the cattle used as assets to secure the contract. A classic shoot-out takes place, and in under an hour the good guys predictably prevail.

Tom has a platonic/business relationship with Claire, as his romantic interest is Draper’s bank secretary Elsie (Katryn Adams). By the film’s end she changes positions and works for the outfit now partnered by Claire and Tom.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”