(director: S. Roy Luby; screenwriters: story by Earle Snell/John Vlahos/Robert Finkle; cinematographer: Robert Cline; editor: S. Roy Luby; music: Frank Sanucci; cast: Ray “Crash” Corrigan (Himself), John ‘Dusty’ King (Himself), Max ‘Alibi; Terhune (Himself), Forrest Taylor (The Deacon/Black Bart), Gwen Gaze (Molly Collins), George Cheseboro (Miller), Frank Ellis (Brady), Jack Holmes (Joe Collins), Walter Shumway (Grover); Runtime: 60; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Anna Bell Ward; Mill Creek Entertainment; 1941)

One of the better Range Buster vehicles in the Monogram series, still the plot is shaky.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

One of the better Range Buster vehicles in the Monogram series, still the plot is shaky. Director S. Roy Luby (“War Dogs”/”Boot Hill Bandits”/”Texas Trouble Shooters”) keeps it moving at a fast pace. It’s based on the story by Earle Snell and is written by John Vlahos and Robert Finkle, that’s loosely based on the historical California bandit named Charles Bolles. He was the gentleman stagecoach robber in the 1870s, who disappeared after his parole in 1888 and no one ever saw him again.

In the Arizona Territory town of Apache Butte a gentleman robber of stagecoaches appears following the same pattern as the infamous non-violent bandit of old known as Black Bart, except he carries a loaded gun and has killed a stage driver. The robberies take place ten years after Black Bart was arrested and served a five year sentence and was released on patrol. But Bart never showed for parole, and hasn’t been heard from since and was presumed dead. Since the robberies are against the Wells Fargo, a top executive (Walter Shumway) of the company sends for help from the three marshals known as the Range Busters–Crash Corrigan, Dusty King and Alibi Terhune–and informs them he suspects the stage robber is Black Bart. The executive informs the trio of Black Bart’s gambling superstition over threes, his politeness during the robberies and of never using a loaded gun; the Range Busters go separately undercover to Apache Butte, determined to get their man. Crash gambles in the El Dorado, a saloon owned by the shady Miller (George Cheseboro) and Brady (Frank Ellis). Dusty romances the church going Molly (Gwen Gaze), who also attracts Crash. Alibi blends into the town as a ventriloquist. At a town meeting in the school, The Deacon (Forrest Taylor) is rewarded for getting Molly’s father off booze by having him donate his land so that The Deacon can build a church. This disturbs Miller and Brady, who wanted the valuable town lot to expand their profitable gambling business for when the railroad will come through.

After some revealing events, the Range Busters learn the Deacon is indeed Black Bart and the stage robber is only an imposter hiding behind Black Bart’s reputation to cover his tracks. Thereby the Range Busters turn their attention on tracking down the imposter and his partner.

It concludes with the Range Busters solving the case of the stagecoach robberies, and then not going by the book to serve instead ‘tender justice with understanding’ by not taking the reformed Deacon in as a parole violator.

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