BOSS OF HANGTOWN MESA (director: Joseph H. Lewis; screenwriter: Oliver Drake; cinematographer: Charles Van Enger; editor: Maurice Wright; music: Frank Skinner; cast: Johnny Mack Brown (Steve Collins), Fuzzy Knight (Dr. J. Wellington Dingle), William Farnum (Judge Ezra Binns), Rex Lease (Bert Lawler), Helen Deverell (Betty Wilkins), Hugh Prosser (Utah Kid), Robert Barron (Flash Hollister), Michael Vallon (Clint Rayner), Henry Hall (John Wilkins), Jack C. Smith (Sheriff); Runtime: 58; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Will Cowan; Universal; 1942)
“Lively B Western.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The acclaimed best director of the Johnny Mack Brown series, Joseph H. Lewis (“The Silver Bullet”/”Arizona Cyclone”/”Gun Crazy”), helms this lively B Western. It’s written by Oliver Drake.
The oily Judge Ezra Barnes (William Farnum), crooked-lawyer Clint Ranier (Michael Vallon) and the slimy saloon-owner Flash Hollister (Robert Barron) are the villains out to stop the completion of the Rocky Mountain Telegraph Company in seven days. They fear a telegraph line will interfere with their questionable land deals, as the telegraph will bring civilization and contact with the rest of the world. The respected John Wilkins (Henry Hall) has a government contract, and if he doesn’t reach Hangtown in time the contract is voided. The villains, led by the judge, have Wilkins’ foreman, Bert Lawler (Rex Lease), under their thumb to sabotage the line and have brought in from out-of-town the hired gunslinger called the Utah Kid (Hugh Prosser). The Kid’s a wanted man, and while escaping from a posse he takes a slug in the shoulder; to avoid the posse, he steals at gunpoint Steve Collins’ (Johnny Mack Brown), horse, ID and clothes. Steve is the engineer from the main telegraph company sent from Cheyenne to help finish the line. While walking to town for help Steve is aided by Dr. Dingle (Fuzzy Knight), who runs a traveling medicine show. In the meantime, the Kid poses as Collins to Wilkins in an effort to get paid $25,000 owed for supplies. When Wilkins discovers he’s a phony, the Kid kills him. Betty Wilkins (Helen Deverell), the niece of John, now takes over trying to get the telegraph line through. It’s up to Steve Collins, despite being unjustly wanted for the murder of John Wilkins, with the help of Dingle, to aid Helen, even though he can’t reveal to anybody who he really is or else face the death penalty.REVIEWED ON 6/23/2007 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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