ARIZONA RAIDERS (director: William Witney; screenwriters: from the story by Frank Gruber & Richard Schayer/Mary & Willard Willingham/Alex Gottlieb; cinematographer: Jacques Marquette; editor: Grant Whytock; music: Richard LaSalle; cast: Audie Murphy (Clint Stewart), Michael Dante (Brady), Ben Cooper (Willie Martin), Buster Crabbe (Capt. Tom Andrews), Gloria Talbott (Martina), Ray Stricklyn (Danny Bonner), Fred Graham (William Quantrill), George Keymas (Montana Smith), Willard Willingham (Eddie), Red Morgan (Tex), Booth Colman (Ohio Gazette editor); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Grant Whytock; Columbia Pictures; 1965)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
William Witney (“Master of the World”), known for his action serials, shoots this action-packed Western in a lively fashion. It comes with an odd plot line but still remains traditional. Writers Mary & Willard Willingham and Alex Gottlieb base it on a story by Frank Gruber & Richard Schayer.
It opens as the editor of the Ohio Gazette (Booth Colman) passionately recalls the ruthless and worthless life of hometown boy Civil War gang leader William Quantrill, whose most horrendous deed was burning down Lawrence, Kansas, in an act of revenge, and killing every man in town who was there but not touching the women out of some misplaced idea of chivalry. Quantrill’s raiders were made up of several hundred wanted criminals, who sympathized with the South. But Quantrill was turned down for a commission as a Reb officer because of his long history of wanton murders and looting. When the war ended, the gang continued to operate. Chased down by Union army Captain Tom Andrews (Buster Crabbe) and cornered in an abandoned farm house in Texas, some of the gang escape but a severely wounded Quantrill will be captured and later die in an army hospital. Clint Stewart (Audie Murphy) and Willie Martin (Ben Cooper) were in the Confederate army and served honorably but when the war ended they returned to find the corrupt carpetbaggers running things and they couldn’t get work. Out of desperation they joined Quantrill. They are captured and sentenced to twenty years of hard labor, which is a lighter sentence than the others captured because of Andrews plea for mercy.
In 1866 Brady (Michael Dante) and Montana Smith (George Keymas), who escaped from Andrews, reform the Quantrill gang with the vicious Montana as leader. They operate in the Arizona Territory where there are no Texas Rangers and there’s large deposits of gold stored. After many bank raids and killings, the military-like gang of a few hundred operates unimpeded until the territorial governor hires Andrews to head up the newly formed Arizona Rangers. Andrews arranges for Clint and Willie to escape and he makes a risky bargain with them that they will receive an unconditional pardon and a position with the rangers if they can infiltrate their former gang and help bring them to justice. The duo agree and decide not to escape to Mexico, which they easily could have done. In the end the Indians help Clint take care of the rampaging gang.
Never anything more than standard, but suitable for fans of the Western.
REVIEWED ON 10/21/2005 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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