Imagine you know nothing about the Durango Kid.

Now imagine watching the beginning of this film. A band of hoods pull a midnight robbery. The leader tells a kid among them to kill a pursuer. The kid only wounds the guy.

Back at the ranch, we discover it’s a family of bandits. The brothers want to kill the youngest, but the father says they can’t kill a relative, they’ll have to find someone else to “take him on a ride and he never comes back.” They write a letter to Powder River looking for a bad ass to do it.

Cut to: A bar in Powder River. A bad ass is given the job, and the letter by way of introduction. A drunk cowboy (Charley) is sleeping it off in the bar.

Cut to: A man dressed all in black bushwhacks the bad ass and takes the letter.

Charley shows up in town, posing as the bad ass, to kill the son.

Real gritty, anti-hero sort of stuff.

Not in 1947. Not in the world of the Durango Kid.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

However, this is a pretty good one. There are some fun twists, some cool riding, and what passes as suspense in this films. And Charley drives the action.

Though Roaring Rangers (1946), is the first teaming of Starrett/Smiley, this would have made a real nice introduction. Smiley prefers his buttermilk to whiskey and some rustlers are ready to plug him for it, when Steve Lacey jumps in and beats them up. Smiley invites Steve to bunk at his place, and spends some time trying to figure out if Steve is the Durango Kid. (There is surprisingly little of this in this series, I mean, people wondering who the Durango Kid is.)

In fact, the bad guys figure out that Steve IS the Durango Kid, but he plugs them before they can spread the news.

Some cool gunplay in this. Charley shoots double-fisted in one shoot-out, fans his pistol in another.

Come to think of it, this IS one of DK’s grittier films. He kills four people (not the usual wing ’em or shoot-the-gun-outta-hands bit.) He even leaves one young guy to bleed out on a cellar floor. Cold!

Paul Campbell plays Tommy, one of nine films he did with Charley. Good looking fellow too.

Music is by The Cass County Boys, who played on nine episodes of the Gene Autry show as The Flying A Ranch Hands.