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  • "Brand of the Devil" was the 14th entry in PRC's "Texas Rangers" series, and is the last one Jim Newill appeared in before being replaced by Tex Ritter in the remaining films of this less-than-stellar B-western series, even measured by just B-western series standards. It is also the last time Dave O'Brien's role name was Tex Wyatt. When Tex Ritter joined the series, his role name became Tex Haines and (fellow-Texan) O'Brien became Dave Wyatt.

    This time out, Texas Rangers Jim Steele (Jim Newill), Tex Wyatt (Dave O'Brien)and Panhandle Perkins (Guy Wilkerson), working undercover,are on the trail of Jack Varno (I. Stanford Jolley) and his cattle-rustling gang who have adopted the insignia of a devil's pitchfork, which has come to be known as "The Brand of the Devil." Varno and his gang---BUCKO LYNN (Charles King). GRIPPER JOE (Kermit Maynard) and Ed (John Cason)--- also don't hesitate to murder their rustling-and-robbery victims.

    The Rangers track the gang to Varno's Gold Ace Saloon, where Panhandle, posing as "Fancy Brand" McGee, sells branding irons which he claims can not be changed. This gets the attention and confidence of Varno and his gang. DUKE CUTTER (Reed Howes), one of the gang, steals a valuable horse from Molly Dawson (Ellen Hall.) Molly follows Cutter to the saloon, a fight breaks out and Tex and Jim rescue Molly.

    Molly's foreman Henry Wilburn (Budd Buster)is working for Varno. He masquerades as Molly and joins Varno's men in a cattle-stealing raid on Jeff Palin's (Karl Hackett) ranch, and Palin tells Sheriff Parker (Edward Cassidy)Molly was the leader. Molly is jailed but Tex and Jim trail the rustlers and capture Wilburn, still wearing Molly's clothes (and not a pretty sight.) Wilburn takes her place in jail.

    The more the Rangers learn about Varno, the more he learns about them and there is a bunch of swapping upper-hand activity before the final shootout in the saloon.

    Cousins Arthur Alexander,credited Producer on this one and Alfred Stern, CREDITED Associate Producer here, swapped the Producer and Associate Producer credits back and forth with each other (on every other entry) but the primary faults with most of the films in this series can be laid firmly at the door of the Alexander-Stern Productions, no matter which one took which credit. Jim Newill sings "Goodbye Old Paint" and the always-great "When the Work's All Done This Fall" in his farewell to the Texas Rangers series.
  • In the 1930s and 40s, there were several cowboy series that were very similar. They consisted of nice guy lawmen coming to yet another town to right rights and punish evil. A few of these series were pretty famous, such as The Three Mesqueteers and the Rough Riders. However, a few, such as The Texas Rangers (Dave O'Brien, James Newell and Guy Wilkerson--hardly household names) also existed--the products of studios even smaller than Republic. In all, they made 14 films in the series.

    The film begins with a VERY familiar western cliché. There is a fight in a bar and members of The Texas Rangers are fighting on different sides. Why? So they can ingratiate themselves with the local gang leader and join his group of rustlers. However, rustling is not the only reason they want to investigate the gang--it seems that some of them have a secret. However, they all can identify each other with a playing card referred to as 'The Brand of the Devil'--and they soon learn that SOMEONE in the bar knows who they are, as this card is left for them.

    Overall, I enjoyed this film a bit more than I expected. Considering it's full of no-name actors and is from a tiny production company, I expected worse! The acting and action weren't bad though the story was VERY formulaic. It also featured the dumbest on-screen excuse to sing a song I've ever seen (you just have to see it to believe it). It's not a great film by any standard but it decent fare for people who love these old series films.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Brand of the Devil" qualifies as a predictable horse opera about three lucky Texas Rangers working undercover to round up a gang of rustlers. They have been preying on a defenseless female rancher. "Randy Rides Alone" director Harry L. Fraser helmed this thoroughly ordinary oater from a screenplay by Elmer Clifton. If you're counting, "Devil" is the fourteenth entry in the long-running PRC Texas Rangers franchise. PRC produced 22 in this series. Incidentally, not only was "Brand of the Devil" the last Texas Rangers movie starring Jim Newill but also it was his final film. This saddle-sore sagebrusher unfolds with a noble foreword: "Dedicated to the law officers of the Old West, who led the fight for law and order in the pioneer days of the country in 1880." Actually, our heroes encounter few difficulties in the performance of their duties. "Brand of the Devil" makes it too easy for the heroes. Essentially, they know who they are going after because they have had their eyes on them. Nevertheless, their chief adversary tries to be difficult. Texas Rangers Jim Steele, Tex Wyatt, and Panhandle Perkins appear separately into the town of Willow Springs. Fraser establishes the identity of the villain early on while our heroes endeavor to help the pretty damsel-in-distress plagued by rustlers. Nothing really spectacular occurs in "Brand of the Devil." The most unusual thing occurs in a scene where the villains frame the frontier gal for rustling. One of her own ranch hands dresses up in drag to impersonate Molly. The owner of the cattle being rustled spots her. Interestingly, Tex and Jim encounter him, and he asks them to serve as witnesses that Molly was supervising the rustling.

    "Brand of the Devil" opens as Jim Steele (Jim Newill of "Spook Town"), attempts to infiltrate the rustlers. The tight-lipped chieftain, duded-up Jack Varno (I. Stanford Jolley of "Backlash"), refuses to hire him, even after he has triumphed over an opponent in a bar room brawl. Meanwhile, Panhandle Perkins (Guy Wilkerson of "To Kill a Mockingbird") masquerades as "Branding Iron" McGee. He claims he can forge branding irons no rustlers can duplicate. Later, angry rancher Molly Dawson (Ellen Hall of "Voodoo Man") storms into the Gold Ace Saloon in Willow Springs. She claims Duke Cutter (Reed Howes of "The Walking Hills") has stolen her white stallion. Molly starts throwing liquor bottles at the bar. Varno urges his henchmen to restrain Molly before she destroys his entire stock. Our gallant protagonists Tex Wyatt (Dave O'Brien of "Reefer Madness") and Steele intervene for Molly. Varno's gunmen tangle with Tex and Jim. Jim blows the gun out of Panhandle's fist and then blasts the lights out to make good their escape. Jim is incredibly adept with his revolver. Molly, Tex, and Jim skedaddle into the night. After they leave, Varno discovers a card with the mark of the devil's brand on it. Varno leads a band of gunmen rustling beef in the territory. They have amassed about $100-thousand in profits. The sight of the card unnerves Varno. Only Varno and his three partners know about it. The actual symbol is a white devil's pitchfork against a black background. Mind you, the Texas Rangers aren't advertising their official presence. The villains learn about their true identity, but not before Panhandle infiltrates their ranks.

    The next morning our heroine rides back into Willow Springs. She locates her stolen white stallion with its saddle in the stable where Duke has stashed him for Varno to inspect. Panhandle watches with concern as Molly saddles her horse. He suggests she contact the authorities. "A lot of good the law does," Molly retorts defiantly, "Why in two months rustlers have taken most of my cattle. I've complained and even written to the Rangers asking for help, and do they show up, they do not. From now on I'm taking the law into my own hands," Molly informs Panhandle as she appropriates her stolen horse. "And if they want to stop me, just let them try." No sooner has Molly ridden off on her horse than Varno and his henchmen pursue her. Tex and Jim gallop up just as Varno and company have halted Molly. "You two seem mighty interested in other people's business," Varno observes. Varno's men invite Tex to look at the brand on the stallion. Tex admits the animal could belong to anybody because it has two brands. Molly pleads with our heroes. "There's not much anybody can do unless you can prove he is yours," Jim concedes. "I'd like to give you two a friendly tip," Varno warns them. "Keep out of my business, and you'll live longer." At this point, Tex and Jim have become Varno's mortal enemies. "You know," Tex states, "I didn't like you when I first saw you and right now I like you less because I think that horse belongs to Miss Dawson." Tex knocks Varno to the ground with a single blow when he tries to draw on him. Varno is pretty fed up with our heroes now and threatens them. "After that warning, we'll be sure to keep our backs away from you." Reluctantly, Tex allows Varno to ride away on Molly's steed. Of course, Molly isn't happy with the outcome. "You'll get your horse back," Jim assures her. "You bet I will," she vows,"but after what's just happened, I can see it won't be through you two."

    Basically, this western is about protecting the weak from the strong. Just as the heroes have standards, so do the villains. One scene occurs between Varno and his hired gunman Bucko Lynn (perennial western heavy Charles King) about killing women. Bucko refuses to kill Molly because she is a woman. He has no qualms about killing men, but he draws the line at killing the opposite sex. Sadly, "Brand of the Devil" is available only as a scratchy public domain print. This lame sagebrusheris strictly a potboiler, though Wilkerson is pretty funny.
  • This entry in PRC's Texas Ranger series has the trio of Dave O'Brien, Jim Newill and Guy Wilkerson work a Mr.Inside/Mr.Outside approach to taking on The Devil's Brand gang who specialize in cattle rustling. Perennial western villain I. Stanford Jolley heads the gang which leaves a calling card of a pitchfork so that everyone knows it's there work. Nice to have a trademark. Personally if I was in that business I think anonymity is where it's at.

    O'Brien and Newill help Ellen Hall whose ranch has been pilfered and who can identify the leader. Wilkerson works to infiltrate the gang and his calling card is fine line of running irons, best to change cattle brands with.

    These rustlers are pretty dumb to fall for this plan because it's so obvious these guys are working together. It's all pretty dumb and the production is shoddy. But par for the course for a PRC film.