Loser of the West
Scott Lothrop | Tampa, FL, USA | 01/07/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is not exactly a winner, though I do like Dick Foran; to me, he was a better actor than either Autry or Rogers. He was almost the first singing cowboy, beaten to the screen by only about a month by Gene Autry. He tends to under-act in a very self-assured way. Anne Nagel is attractive and convincing in her role, as you see her slowly turn from dislike of the hero to admiration to love. Harry Woods ("Rustlers of Red Dog") is one of the all-time great Western bad guys, and he's at his best here. He reminds me of Roy Barcroft, which is appropriate because Barcroft has a minor part in this one--he once said he learned the most about acting by watching Harry Woods. Tom Fadden is likeable as Tex Houston, Jeff Ramsey's sidekick.
Unfortunately, the serial isn't much in spite of the good acting at the top. The plot is derivative: The local outlaw leader doesn't want the railroad coming through to ruin his little empire, so he and his bandits incite the local Indians to stop it. That's been done before, and better. The chapter endings are typical Universal half-baked cliffhangers, including at least one stupid cheat: In Chapter Two a train is coming around a curve atop a high cliff with the hero on board, and it hits a broken track and careens into the canyon. Just before that, he jumps off the train onto level ground that didn't exist. And the cliffhanger that ends Chapter Twelve is lifted straight out of "The Phantom Rider," with close-ups of Dick Foran substituted for Buck Jones. Pretty shabby."