SILVER BULLET, THE (director: Joseph H. Lewis; screenwriters: Elizabeth Beecher/story by Oliver Drake; cinematographer: Charles Van Enger; editor: Maurice E. Wright; music: Hans Salter; cast: Johnny Mack Brown (Silver Jim Donovan), Fuzzy Knight (Wild Bill Jones), William Farnum (Dr. Thad Morgan), Jennifer Holt (Nancy Lee), LeRoy Mason (Walter Kincaid), Rex Lease (Rance Harris), Grace Lenard (Queenie Canfield), Claire Whitney (Emily Morgan), Charles ‘Slim’ Whitaker (Henchman Buck); Runtime: 56; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Oliver Drake; Universal; 1942)
“Superior B Western helmed by the legendary low-budget wizard Joseph H. Lewis.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Superior B Western helmed by the legendary low-budget wizard Joseph H. Lewis (“Border Wolves”). Silver Jim Donovan (Johnny Mack Brown) carries the silver bullet taken out of his back. He’s on the hunt for the same unknown assailant who did that to him and also killed his father five-years ago by putting a silver bullet in his back. The only other clue besides the silver bullet, is that the killer had a tattoo on his left arm of a jagged lightning bolt. Before entering the town of Winchester, Jim stops a stage and instead of robbing it looks at everyone’s left arm. He then rescues a wannabe playwright named Wild Bill Jones (Fuzzy Knight) from three toughs trying to intimidate him to vote for Walter Kincaid (LeRoy Mason) as state senator. The two become partners and grab a drink at the saloon owned by Bill’s aspiring actress girlfriend Queenie (Grace Lenard). The same three thugs return and a barroom brawl results, with Jim being saved by Kincaid winging the man who was about to shoot him in the back (In this town, that action doesn’t even get the potential killer arrested; instead Jim gets warned by the mayor and town doctor Thad Morgan (William Farnum) not to start any more trouble or he’ll be kicked out of town). Anyway Kincaid only does it to impress the lady he’s with, Nancy Lee (Jennifer Holt). She happens to be the richest and most respected lady in Wyoming and Kincaid is hoping to marry her. Later Jim meets with Morgan and gives him a drawing of the tattoo he’s looking for, revealing his purpose for being in town. Kincaid asks the doctor, his political rival, to remove the tattoo and afterwards says thank you by plugging him. This serves a double purpose, it eliminates his election rival and stops him from blabbing about removing the tattoo. But the tricky doctor didn’t remove the tattoo, he only operated on it to make sure it would stay on permanently.
Jim begins to suspect that Kincaid is a baddie when he threatens if elected to take away the watering rights to the small ranchers, and therefore has his comical sidekick Bill tail him. He also convinces Thad’s widow Emily to run in his place. When it’s discovered that Kincaid is the cold-blooded killer Jim’s been chasing all this time, it leads to an exciting confrontation between them on election day in the town streets in front of the polling place.
Never a dull moment in this edgy Western, that delivers on the action but lapses at times when the limited script fails to hold the dramatics together. Before I realized it, Jim and Nancy are an item.
REVIEWED ON 9/6/2005 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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