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STAR PACKER (director/writer: Robert N. Bradbury; screenwriter: from a story by Robert N. Bradbury/Robert N. Bradbury; cinematographer: Archie Stout; editor: Carl Pierson; music: Abe Meyer; cast: John Wayne (U.S. Marshal John Travers), Verna Hillie (Anita Matlock), George ‘Gabby’ Hayes (Matt Matlock), Yakima Canutt (Yak), Earl Dwire (Henchman Mason), Ed Parker (Henchman Parker), Tom Lingham (Sheriff Al Davis), Tex Palmer (Stagecoach Driver), George Cleveland (Jake, the cook); Runtime: 53; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paul Malvern; Monogram; 1934)
“Improbable plot.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A Monogram cheapie (made for $8,000, which was $3,000 more than their usual oater in the series) directed and scripted by Robert N. Bradbury. It has John Wayne as John Travers, trying to look cool acting out this improbable plot. Travers is a stranger who rides into town and foils a stagecoach holdup after the driver was shot, and rescues Anita Matlock (Verna Hillie) from the runaway horses. She’s the niece of leading citizen Matt Matlock (George ‘Gabby’ Hayes), who meets her uncle for the first-time. He’s the former partner with her father in the ranch and when her dad was killed Anita inherited his half-share. Matt informs her the rustlers stole all the cattle and the untrustworthy cowhands all quit, and urges her to sell her share to him and go back east. When the new sheriff is killed in the street from someone unseen, Travers takes the job. We later learn the shooter hid in a phony tree stump, where he gained entry because a secret tunnel runs under the town.

Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph

Travers partners with the Indian Yak (Yakima Canutt) and soon discovers that the mysterious head of a ruthless gang is called The Shadow. The outlaw gives his orders from behind the wall of a safe located in the back room of a saloon. Travers soon finds the tunnel The Shadow uses to reach his destinations undetected. Travers then foils The Shadow, who is revealed as Matt, from mowing down the town with a machine gun. Jake, who is Matlock’s cook, tells Anita that Matt’s not really her uncle but assumed that role when the villain killed her father and real uncle. The moral of the story could be ‘Never trust your uncle unless he’s really your uncle.’ The film comes with a happy ending, as Travers marries Anita and we view them a few years later with their toddler and Yak teaching him a war dance as Anita mockingly frowns. REVIEWED ON 8/19/2005 GRADE: C –

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”