Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Fugitive of the Plains
This 1943 entry from PRC's long-running Billy the Kid series features Buster Crabbe as Billy and Al "Fuzzy" St. John as his sidekick Fuzzy Q. Jones. As usual, it's directed by the highly prolific B-Western director Sam Newfield. The plot has more whiskers than Fuzzy does: somebody impersonating Billy the Kid is leading a band of outlaws that's wreaking havoc along the border (as the movie establishes at the beginning with several minutes of stock footage that seem even longer). Billy sets out to infiltrate the gang and bring the real criminals to justice. Also as usual with this series, the chief appeal of FUGITIVE OF THE PLAINS lies in Fuzzy's acrobatic antics and the slambang fights and stunts featuring Buster Crabbe. Fuzzy is a little subdued in this one, but Buster seems more engaged than usual and looks like he's having fun. Maxine Leslie has an interesting turn as a hardboiled lady outlaw. The henchmen include rawboned Kermit Maynard and ubiquitous George Chesebro. I looked for Bud Osborne and Charles King (the Pudgiest Gun in the West), but I guess they were making some other B-Western the week this one was shot. Nobody would mistake these PRC Westerns, made very quickly on very low budgets, for quality films, but doggone it, I enjoy them anyway. The scripts are nearly always terrible and the acting and the production values seldom rise above mediocre, but they have a workmanlike earnestness about them that I like. Everybody involved went out there, did their jobs, collected their paychecks, and went home. And every so often, as with the ending of this one, which took me a little by surprise, they achieved a moment or two that's really not bad. I have a bunch of these movies on DVD, and I expect to be watching another one before too much longer.