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Readers of this site are well aware that I am down with any Western featuring the word “Phantom” in its title.  And I loves me some Ken Maynard, so this is a double hit.

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Ken plays “The Thunderbolt Kid” in a film made in 1933 and set in an indeterminate time period (no cars, plenty of telephones, the railroad is coming).  The film starts with his side-kick riding into town before him and, never explained, telling everyone that he’s a bad guy so that when Ken shows up, everyone is scared of him.  Hilarity ensues.  Not really, but some fighting and falling in love and Ken is asked by the town elders to clean up the town.

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This is essentially a comic farce which is neither my favorite form of Western or Ken Maynard’s forte.

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He’s fine in this but I prefer my Maynard with the weight of the world on his shoulders.  I think it suits him best.

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There’s no real in-film reason for Maynard’s character to be called “Phantom Thunderbolt” or “Mr. Phantom Thunderbolt” as a bad guy mockingly calls him.   There is no phantom-like behavior here as is in evidence in his “Phantom Rancher.”

It’s sort of like Rex Allen and his “Arizona Cowboy” moniker.  These poverty row studios seem so mad to have a series or a trademark character that they stuck names on cowboy stars like tin badges out of a cereal box.  No disrespect for the hard-working and creative souls who made these entertaining films out of nothing.  It’s just hard to unravel looking back from a distance of 80 years.

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You can’t tell here but in these intro cards each of these guys smile then *wink*!

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The 3 return.  Always a different line up with these guys.  Glad to see our friend Bob Steele in the crew this time.

Wanna take a guess where they shot it?

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And Bob Steele!

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This feels like the Bob Steele from “With Davy Crockett at the Fall of the Alamo.” That was 1926.  This is 1941.

I know that “The Three Mesquiteers” series (like many b-western series of the time, including that of the Durango Kid) exists in radically different time-periods, film to film.  “Prairie Pioneers” exists in the Golden State during the transition from the Ranchos to the new settlers.  I have a good amount of respect for the specificity of the mythic California that these characters inhabit.  I’ll be revisiting this series soon, with whatever threesome is on the screen, in hopes of finding more set at this time.  But I sure hope Bob Steele is one of the 3.

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Love that dude!

 

Dick Foran, man of all genres.

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Lots of cowboy stars straddled the three worlds of non-pornographic B = Westerns, Science Fiction and Horror.   Buster Crabbe, Clu Gulager, Forrest Tucker, Gene Autry, Lash LaRue, and  Tim Holt are a few I can name.  Oh, and Lon Chaney Jr.

Add Dick Foran to the list.

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—  1940   . The people at Matinee Classics have a nice overview of Dick Foran’s career.   For a more in-depth study, there’s always our good friends at The Old Corral.

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Monogram made 20 Range Buster films between 1940 and 1943.  They featured a rotating cast of 3 ‘Busters’ which always included comic relief Max Therhune (and Elmer, his puppet) and often Ray Corrigan.  Denny Moore here is a replacement for the other almost-regular, John ‘Dusty’ King.

“Land of Hunted Men” is one of the last of this series.  It’s main value, at least to me, is as a great overview of the dramatic and emblematic locations at Ray Corrigan’s studio in Simi Valley, Corriganville.  Unfortunately, this print doesn’t do them justice, and any lousy screengrabs I could throw up would only be worse.

So.  Here’s a site has some great stuff on Corriganville.

Or you can visit it, like Briar and I did in 2008.  (And you can visit Elmer at The Autry.)

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See ya ’round!

The setting is a small theater in Orlando.  The year is 1984.

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Junior.

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Senior.

In this recording of the performance, they appear on the same stage but never at the same time.  The Sons of the Pioneers are all over this thing.  Sr. sings “Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds.”  Jr. sings this song:

When I was just a little boy I learned to call the cows

From Eddie Arnold singing strong about the Cattle Call

And I’ll never forget the Pioneer’s singing

‘See Them Tumbling Down’ 

Well, I think it’s time that we put Western Back in the Country sound

Ev’ry time that I hear Rex sing about his ‘Arizona Sky’

Or Roy and Dale’s “Happy Trails”. They always bring a sigh!

My throat gets tight then the tears come

See them tumbling down

But, I think it’s time that we put Western Back in the Country sound.

Hear those Pioneers Singing ’bout cool, clear water

While they’re headin’ for the last roundup …

Yes, I think it’s time that we put Western Back in the Country sound.

Oh, how I wish that I could be ‘Back In The Saddle’ with Gene

But days like that I live again “Only in my dreams”

And when I hear Tex sing ‘High Noon’

My heart comes tumbling down

Well, I think it’s time that we put Western Back in the Country sound. 

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(No longer) singing cowboy Rex Allen stars in this 1958 TV series.  As Dr. Bill Baxter, Rex Allen puts away the vocal chops and picks up a doctor’s bag — using medicine to rid the West of all sorts of evil.

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How?  Like this:

Wherever in the Southwest Desperadoes rode, Death rode with them.  Death with also epidemics of disease that scourged the area.  Sometimes Desperado and Epidemic rode together and Death triumphantly led the way.  For the sake of the community, one courageous man, who feared neither Desperado or Epidemic, challenged them both and the gaunt spectre that rode with them.  Rex Allen stars as THE FRONTIER DOCTOR!

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Or this way:

In the Southwest, at the turn of the century, ruthless gangs of outlaws pillaged and robbed at will.  With utter contempt for the lives of all but their own, they terrorized everyone, sometimes entire communities.  Due to the quiet courage of a fearless man, the reign of terror of such a gang was ended.  Rex Allen stars as THE FRONTIER DOCTOR!

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Sometimes like a cowboy hero.

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But generally not.

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The Arizona Cowboy deserved a better TV vehicle.  After this, Rex’s film and TV work was primarily as a narrator, often for Walt Disney.  Dude did have a great voice but I think he could have shone as an actor in some decent films.  He had a striking look which you can’t see in these lousy screen-grabs — check out this previous post about the man.