THE PARSON AND THE OUTLAW
(director: Oliver Drake; screenwriter: John Mantley; cinematographer: Clark Ramsey; editor: Warren Adams; music: ; cast: Anthony Dexter (Billy the Kid/Bill Antrum), Sonny Tufts (Jack Slade), Bob Duncan (Marshall Pat Garrett), Marie Windsor (Tonya), Charles “Buddy” Rogers (Rev. Jericho Jones), Robert Lowery (Colonel Morgan), Bob Steele (Ace Jardine), Joe Sodja (Ben), Jean Parker (Sarah Jones), Madalyn Trahey (Elli McCloud), Paul Spahn (Lt. Paul Nash), Kenne Duncan (Matt McCloud); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Gilbert/Charles Rogers; Columbia; 1957)
“A wild and wacky Billy the Kid tale.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A wild and wacky Billy the Kid tale, that’s filled with cloying Christian symbolism, an unconvincing alternative version of the legendary outlaw’s story, and has cast a bunch of over-the-hill actors. It’s weakly directed by long-time B-film director Oliver Drake (“Fighting Mustang”/”The Mummy’s Curse”/”Sunset Carson Rides Again”). who co-writes it with John Mantley.
A world-weary young Billy-the-Kid (Anthony Dexter), tired of living the lonely life of a fugitive, fakes his death. His most trusted friend, the Marshal Pat Garrett (Bob Duncan), pretends to shoot him and attends his funeral. Pat then secretly meets with Billy, gives him the deed to a small ranch in Four Corners and the name Billy Antrum, and has the Kid vow to never use his guns again. The peaceful homesteader, no longer packing guns, heads for his ranch but on the trail saves the life of gunslinger Jack Slade (Sonny Tufts) from attacking Indians.
The founder of the lawless town of Four Corners is the crooked Col. Jefferson Morgan (Robert Lowery), who kills the local newspaper editor (Kenne Duncan) in a gun duel over accusations of corruption made against him in print. His strong-willed daughter Ellie McCloud (Madalyn Trahey), despite threats by the villain, keeps the paper open and openly attacks Morgan. Ellie and the peaceful homesteaders plan to vote yes to being annexed by Texas, but Morgan and his hired guns intimidate the homesteaders not to vote. Meanwhile the town’s Spanish gypsy tramp, Tonya (Marie Windsor), forces herself on Billy and becomes his live-in servant.
When Billy discovers Morgan’s henchman Jardine (Bob Steele) lives there, he makes him leave. But Morgan orders his hired gunslinger Slade to make sure that Billy leaves before the town votes on the political issue. At the same time, arriving in town for a month of revival tent church gatherings is the parson Jericho Jones (Charles “Buddy” Rogers) and his wife Sarah (Jean Parker). They once tried to reform Billy but failed. When they see him in town, they recognize him but respect his wishes to go unrecognized . But when the town is under siege by Morgan and the citizens are afraid to vote, the preacher tells Billy the scriptures give him permission to kill for a good cause.
The question becomes if Billy will put on his guns again to save the town. The answer is obvious. But the presentation is cold: Billy seems too rigid to be the Kid, the news-lady too shrill to care about, the baddies too one-dimensional, Marie Windsor is too hammy, and the preacher is too contrived a character to remind us of Jesus dying on the cross.
REVIEWED ON 2/7/2016 GRADE: C+