Shadows of Death
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starring Buster Crabbe and Al 'Fuzzy' St. John
(1945) The railroad's coming to Red Rock and Billy (Buster Crabbe) has been sent in to help his friend Fuzzy, who's the town's sheriff, judge, and barber. Things heat up when the man who sent Billy is murdered and the railroad location map stolen.
Tex Ralph's Westerns #15
B-Westerns strongly evoked traditional American values - honesty, courage, hard work, fair play, and that a good little man can always kick the butt of a bad big man.
In the darkness of the theater and afterwards, out in the Saturday afternoon sunlight playing cowboys and Indians, long before political correctness changed the name of our favorite boyhood game, we knew we were right and lived in the greatest land of all... because Gene and Roy and Hoppy and all our other heroes said so and showed us how to live a good moral life by riding hard, drawing fast, and never, EVER stealing a horse or rustling a cow.
"Tex Ralph's Westerns" is a weekly TV show on cable channel 20, URTV, in Asheville, North Carolina. Author Ralph Roberts chooses exciting B-Westerns and hosts each episode. Currently there are 53 movies in this series, all available on DVD.
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While the scripts, settings, and supporting casts repeated themselves with alarming regularity, this series was given a considerable boost by the appealing performances of Crabbe and St. John. Though he was never hailed for his acting ability, Buster Crabbe had such a winning screen presence that it didn't matter if he posed no threat to Spencer Tracy or Paul Muni. He was the sort of easygoing, likable Western hero that audiences could easily root for. Al St. John was one of the funniest Western sidekicks in the business; a talented visual comedian (he had appeared in numerous silent comedies with his uncle, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle), Fuzzy could always "pepper up" a routine script with his lively physical clowning. Together, Crabbe and St. John made a solid team, and their combined talents helped them overcome PRC's severe budgetary limitations.
This Buster Crabbe double feature is a bargain for fans of this series. HIS BROTHER'S GHOST is one of the better entries, with St. John playing his usual role of Fuzzy as well as Fuzzy's brother, Andy. When Andy is killed, Fuzzy steps in as the title character to thwart a bandit gang. SHADOWS OF DEATH is an okay entry that, like so many others, is just an excuse to see the duo in action.
Print quality on both titles is only passable. One of these days I'd love to see a good (if not great) copy of one of the Crabbe/St. John Westerns. As it is, fans will appreciate this two-for-one deal. (Non-fans won't rate this disc as highly as I did...then again, non-fans won't be interested in this disc at all.)
Under Sam Newfield (Director), Sigmund Neufeld (Producer), Fred K. Myton (Screenwriter), John H. Greenhalgh, Jr.(Cinematographer), Holbrook Todd (Editor) ------ the cast includes Buster Crabbe (Billy Carson), Al St. John (Fuzzy Q. Jones), Dona Dax (Babs Darcy), Charles King (Steve Landreau (gang boss), Karl Hackett (Dave Hanlely (murder fictim), Eddie Hall (Clay Kincaid), Frank Ellis (Henchman Frisco), John L. Cason (Henchman Butch), Budd Buster (Man getting beard trimmed), Emmett Lynn (Old-timer in bathtub), Bud Osborne (Man getting shave), Wally West (Deputy) . . . . . . our story asks, why is Buster Crabbe being sent to Red Rock and what part does Charles King play in this Poverty Row oater ... Fuzzy St. John holds down three jobs Barber, Justice of the Peace and the town's Marshal ... is Buster horning in on Eddie Hall's romance with Dona Dax, could be ... Fuzzy is a big part of this film's success and holds well under his terrific physical comedy ... Crabbe better watch his step as King is on to him and the missing map ...will our "Our Old Pals" (Buster and Fuzzy) give their fans all the action and excitement they're expecting, well sit back and enjoy this rip roaring B-Western ----- B-Western footnote, actor Al St. John, silent film comic who appeared in dozens of Mack Sennett's early Keystone comedies and would eventually create and star in his own vehicles for other studios. With the advent of sound, he became a character actor in westerns and later the bewhiskered sidekick, also known as Fuzzy Q. Jones in some popular series Fred Scott (Spectrum Pictures/1937-38), Bob Steele/Billy the Kid (PRC Pictures/1940-41), Don "Red" Barry (Republic Pictures/1940-42), Lone Rider wth George Houston (PRC Pictures/1941-42), Lone Rider with Robert Livingston (PRC Pictures/1942-43), Buster Crabbe/Billy the Kid (PRC Pictures/1941-43), Buster Crabbe/Billy Carson (PRC Pictures/1943-46), Lash LaRue (PRC Pictures/1947-52) --- St. John retired from film making in the early '50s, passed away in 1963 from a heart attack while working with the Tommy Scott Wild West show --- check out this and more in a new book "Those Great Cowboy Sidekicks" by David Rothel, available from Amazon and Empire Publishing --- pick up your copy today ----- second B-Western footnote, actor Charles King was among the top five "Best of the Badmen" (according to a new book by Boyd Magers, Bob Nareau and Bobby Copeland) --- King was a big man, but as agile as a cat during his fight scenes with Johnny Mack Brown, Buster Crabbe, Tex Ritter, The Rough Riders and Bob Steele...King appeared in 400 films and 350 were in sound including many cliffhangers --- King was the heavy we loved to hate --- check out this and more in a new book "Best of the Badmen" by Boyd Magers, Bob Nareau and Bobby Copeland, available from Amazon and Empire Publishing --- pick up your copy today --- another great B-Western for Buster Crabbe under the PRC Picture banner, proves to be one of his most exciting performances.
Special footnote, actor Buster Crabbe graduated from the University of Southern California and won the 400 meter freestyle in which he medaled in the 1932 Olympics, went to work for Paramount in "King of the Jungle" (1933), next role was "Tarzan the Fearless (1933), Crabbe returned to Paramount Pictures was featured in Zane Grey Westerns which were well received, then came the roles that made him a household word "Flash Gordon" and "Buck Rogers" at Universal Picture Serials (1936-1940), meanwhile PRC Studios was looking for a leading hero "Billy the Kid" and "Billy Carson" in the 1940's B-Western series and ran its course for six years, later made several televison appearances and appeared in a series "Captain Gallant and the Foreign Legion" (1955-1957).....
1. Buster Crabbe (aka: Clarence Linden Crabbe II)
Birth Date: 2/17/1907 - Oakland California
Died: 4/23/1983 - Scottsdale, Arizona
2. Al "Fuzzy" St. John (aka: Alfred St. John)
Birth Date: 9/10/1893 - Santa Ana, CA
Died: 1/21/1963 - Lyons, Georgia
3. Charles King
Birth Date: 2/21/1895 - Hillsboro, Texas
Died: 5/07/1957 - Hollywood, California (cirrhosis of liver)
4. Sam Newfield (Director)
Date of birth: 6 December 1899 - New York, New York
Date of death: 10 November 1964 - Los Angeles, California
If you crave action, drama and plenty of adventure check out other western double features with Buster Crabbe:
BUSTER CRABBE WESTERN DOUBLE FEATURES:
1. Vol. 1 - Western Cyclone/Sheriff of Sage Valley (1942-43) (VCI #7213) (DVD)
2. Vol. 2 - Fugitive of the Plains/Fuzzy Settles Down (1943-44) (VCI #7299) (DVD)
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Great job by VCI Entertainment for releasing "Shadows of Death (1945) - Buster Crabbe, the
digital transfere with a clean, clear and crisp print...looking forward to more
high quality releases from the vintage serial era of the '20s, '30s & '40s and
B-Westerns...order your copy now from Amazon or VCI Entertainment where there
are plenty of copies available on DVD and VHS, stay tuned once again for top
notch action mixed with deadly adventure from the "King of Serials" VCI...just
the way we like 'em
Total Time: 60 min on DVD/VHS ~ VCI Home Video ~ (6/25/2002)