11 March 2011 | secondtake
Forgettable--there are so many B-movie Westerns to suffer through, why mess with a C-movie version?
Lightning Raiders (1945)
This is such a poorly made, almost amateurish little Western you really can't watch it seriously. But in fact, it's also a bit of a comedy--certainly the one actor with real personality is a total goofball. I can picture watching an A-movie at the theater and being happy to sit for less than an hour and get a laugh out of this crazy thing. But on its own, with all the options at our fingertips, there is almost no reason to sit through it. The director (Sam Neufield, or Newfield, depending which and where you look) made almost 300 of these cheap movies, and he made them cheap enough and with enough crazy action to have a career of it, from the 1930s to the 50s.
Amazingly, this was part of a series (and so must have had a following), so in a way this is like a television series (and about that quality, say from the 1950s). The lead character is played by Buster Crabbe, who did a dozen Billy the Kid movies during the middle of the war and then a dozen Billy Carson movies near the end. That makes close to 30 movies (with Newfield/Neufield directing) in a three or four year stretch. And he's no actor, not anything to write home about.
But he's surrounded by lots of other types, mostly gunmen and sheriffs and the usual retinue from Westerns. But the gem is this bearded oddball who is a physical comedian, Al St. John. I don't think it's worth watching one of these just to see him in action, but maybe part of one, anyway. There is no sense of real drama because suddenly St. John (who is called Fuzzy) will show up and fall and be crazy. For example, he swallows some jumping beans and naturally has to turn upside down and act like his belly is on fire even as they are about to get nabbed by the crooks roving outside somewhere.
Ha. The writing is abysmal, the production values terrible, but who knows, give it five minutes and see how you stand it.