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SMOKING GUNS(director: Alan James; screenwriters: Nate Gatzert/Ken Maynard; cinematographer: Ted McCord; editor: Charles Harris; cast: Ken Maynard (Ken Masters, posing as Dick Evans), Gloria Shea (Alice Adams), Walter Miller (Texas Ranger Dick Evans), Harold Goodwin (Hank Stone), William Gould (Silas Stone), Jack Rockwell (Texas Ranger Captain Adams), Bob Kortman (Henchman Biff), Ed Coxen (Bob Masters), Slim Whitaker (Henchman Slim Watts); Runtime: 62; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ken Maynard; Universal; 1934)
“What was intended as a parody instead appears strained and hard to categorize as a standard Western.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A misfire written and produced by the star. Ken Maynard took on this project, supposedly, so he could write off the expenses for his crocodile hunting trips (which were made into home movies). What was intended as a parody instead appears strained and hard to categorize as a standard Western. The film was so poorly received by Universal that they demanded Maynard remake it, but he refused and left the studio to become an independent producer–which didn’t turn out too well for him.

The film opens as Ken Masters (Ken Maynard) confronts the local cattle baron Silas Stone (William Gould) about the disappearance of his rancher father Bob (Ed Coxen). A fight breaks out and Hank (Harold Goodwin), the cattle baron’s treacherous son, kills his father seeing this as his opportunity to take over his father’s ranch while blaming Ken for the murder. No one believes Ken who has to go on the run to the swamps of Louisiana, where he takes on the look of a disheveled madman as he’s pursued for the last three years by Texas Ranger Dick Evans (Walter Miller). Ken willingly goes with Dick when the lawman overtakes him at a campfire, anxious to have at last a fair trial prove his innocence. When the lawman comes down with jungle fever and his prisoner nurses him instead of leaving him to die, Dick believes in his innocence. While crossing the swamp, the panicky lawman shoots at the many hungry alligators gathering around the boat even though warned not to by Ken. The gators overturn their boat and Dick gets bitten on the leg. Not willing to have Ken perform the crude amputation with a red hot poker, he shoots himself. Ken then cleans himself up and poses as Dick and returns home. He’s accepted by his boss Captain Adams, even though he doesn’t even closely resemble Dick. The captain’s daughter Alice (Gloria Shea) thinks that’s her boyfriend Dick until he fails to call her Kitten. Ken then tells her the truth and shows a letter Dick wrote explaining his belief that his prisoner is innocent and expressing gratitude for the way the prisoner looked after him. Ken thereby has the green light to go after the serpentine villain, release his bearded father held prisoner and eventually traps the villain in a spooky old house (a scene that could have been lifted from an Abbott and Costello horror/comedy).

REVIEWED ON 10/27/2005 GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”