TERROR OF TINY TOWN, THE
(director: Sam Newfield; screenwriter: Fred Myton; cinematographer: Mack Stengler; editor: Martin G. Cohn/Richard G. Wray; music: Charles Newman/Walter G. Samuels; cast: Billy Curtis (The Hero, Buck Lawson), Yvonne Moray (The Girl, Nancy Preston), ‘Little Billy’ Rhodes (The Villain, Bat Haines), Billy Platt (The Rich Uncle Jim ‘Tex’ Preston), John T. Bambury (The Ranch Owner, Pop Lawson), Joseph Herbst (The Sheriff), Charles Becker (The Cook, Otto), Nita Krebs (The Vampire, Nita, the dance hall girl); Runtime: 62; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jed Buell; Alpha Video; 1938)
“It holds up as a curio for those parties who are just curious to see midget cowboys in action.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Another novelty film from producer Jed Buell; it has a cast of about 60 midgets (Many were part of a performing troupe called Singer’s Midgets); it’s known as the first and only midget musical Western. Buell previously produced an all-black Western in 1937 called “Harlem on the Prairie.” Sam Newfield (“Six Gun Rhythm”/”Knight of the Plains “) directs from a script by Fred Myton. It’s a routine Western, except for the midgets; it has a cowboy helping out a beautiful ranch owner threatened by rustlers.
Bat Haines (Little Billy) is the black-hatted villain who incites a feud between two families, the Preston and Lawson ranches, in the hopes of taking over their spreads as they each accuse the other of rustling. To the rescue will come Buck Lawson (Billy Curtis), son of the head of the Lawson family, who wears a white cowboy hat. There’s the familiar hero saving fistfight at the climax, a murder in which the villain frames the hero, a romance between the innocents, a gambling bar room and a musical hall. The singing cowboy hero’s voice is dubbed. The romance comes when Buck falls for rival ranch owner Nancy Preston (Yvonne Moray), the niece of the rich Tex Preston (Billy Platt). The midgets all ride Shetland ponies, Buck’s is white.
The film, for the most part, plays it straight. But there’s comic relief over the cook (Charles Becker) chasing a duck who walks backwards, a singalong with a penguin, and a saloon singer siren (Nita Krebs) acting like a tiny version of Marlene Dietrich.
It holds up as a curio for those parties who are just curious to see midget cowboys in action. It’s certainly not one of the worst films of all-time as stated by some shortsighted critics, nor is it a rancid exploitation film despite being politically incorrect. But it’s also nothing special outside of the midget cast, who are awful actors and their speech is stilted–which adds to the camp feeling. Buell’s film differs from Todd Browning’s 1932 Freaks because it treats its midgets as if they were normal people while Browning showered them with compassion.
REVIEWED ON 12/26/2006 GRADE: C+