(director: John English; screenwriters: John K. Butler/from the novel “Phantom .45s Talk Loud” by Joseph Chadwick; cinematographer: William Bradford; editor: Aaron Stell; music: Joseph Dubin; cast: Gene Autry (Himself/Gene Autry Sr.), Nan Leslie (Ruth Lambert), Walter Sande (Jake Fargo), Thurston Hall (Big Tim Hanlon), Clem Bevans (Loco John), Francis McDonald (Charlie Lewis), Jock O’Mahoney (Pete Reagan), Alan Hale Jr. (Matt Kimbrough), Amelita Ward (Waitress Lily Shannon), Rory Mallinson(Sheriff); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Armond Schaeffer; Columbia; 1949)

“More adult than usual Autry screenplay.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Gene Autry plays dual roles, as he plays himself and sports a mustache to play his hero sheriff father. John English (“The Hills of Utah”)aggressively directs the more adult than usual Autry screenplay crafted bywriter John K. Butler. It’s based onthe novel “Phantom .45s Talk Loud” by Joseph Chadwick.

Rancher Gene Autry prepares for a stagecoach raceas part of Frontier Days celebration in the town of Canyon Junction. The sheriff informs Gene that three dangerous criminals escaped and one of them is Jake Fargo (Walter Sande). Twenty years ago Gene’s, now deceased, father captured stagecoach robber and killer Fargo and his other two gang members, but never recovered the $30,000 gold shipment they robbed from the Bonanza mine owner Big Tim Hanlon (Thurston Hall).

While the race takes place, the escaped convicts steal three horses in the deserted town, with one being Gene’s horse Champion. The outlaws then head to a nearby ghost town, once run by mine owner and Bonanza hotel owner Big Tim. That’s the place where Jake hid the loot while on the run.

Meanwhile Gene has a wheel come off the stagecoach, as racer Matt Kimbrough (Alan Hale Jr.) fixes the race so he can go that night to the celebration dance with the waitress Lily (Amelita Ward). She promised the race winner a date to the dance. The deserted Gene walks with a limp three miles to the nearby ghost town to wait there for Matt to pick him up the next day, but unexpectedly finds lonely bespectacled school teacher Ruth Lambert (Nan Leslie) weirdly communicating with the ghost of Big Tim in the abandoned Bonanza hotel. Soon the nearby residing loner prospector, Loco John (Clem Bevans), shows up and tells Gene the escaped felons were at his camp site and had Champion.

Gene becomes romantically interested in Ruth when she takes off her glasses and puts on an evening dress once owned by Big Tim’s actress girlfriend, and suddenly looks ravishing.

Gene learns that Ruth has been coming here the last few Saturdays because she believes she’s communicating with Big Tim’s ghost and he’s offering her positive romantic advice. After the ghost story antics are cleared up through a plot twist, the dangerous escapees return looking for the loot and Gene has to battle with them like his dad did.

REVIEWED ON 11/17/2011 GRADE: B-