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  • It is unfortunate the previous reviewer was surprised that Larry "Buster" Crabbe made westerns. Crabbe portrayed a variety of roles during his long career ranging from Tarzan (Tarzan the Fearless serial) to Flash Gordon (serials), from cowboy Billy Carson to a French Foreign Legionaire ("Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion" TV series).

    In 1940, Bob Steele was starring as PRC's 'Billy the Kid' (who, in these films, was a good guy wrongfully blamed for various misdeeds). But Steele received a better offer from Republic Pictures, where he would become one of the Three Mesquiteers.

    To fill Steele's slot, PRC hired Buster Crabbe, and from 1941-1946, he would appear in three dozen western programmers, including the film reviewed here. The initial entries had Crabbe continuing the 'Billy the Kid' role, but his screen name was later changed to 'Billy Carson' (supposedly because of the negative connotation associated with 'Billy the Kid').

    Crabbe's sidekick in all these range epics was Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, who had become entrenched as a cowboy saddle pal.

    As with most westerns of the period, Crabbe's films were primarily shown at matinées in neighborhood theaters across the country with the largest part of the audience made up of children. This is why almost all the major cowboys had comic sidekicks. Character and plot development was largely absent. It was a non-discriminating audience that wanted action, a laugh or two, and for the good guy to beat the bad guy. The "B" western filled the bill.
  • Billy Carson is sent to Red Rock to make sure that land grabbers don't affect the railroad coming through the town. Landreau, who has just set up a gambling hall, is only in the town to get the main land rights that the railroad would pay top dollar for. Landreau sees Billy as his biggest obstacle, but sees a tool in Kincaid, who thinks Billy is interfering in his romance with ranch owner Babs Darcy. Billy and Fuzzy (the town's marshal, justice of the peace, and barber) go out to prove that Landreau and his gang killed the railroad agent and try to make sure that Kincaid doesn't get shot in the process. The film is the most basic of the railroad rights land grab plots and there is nothing special about this film, in fact the film is a bit slow at times especially when the scenes involve the Kincaid character and dilemma. Fuzzy saves the film as usual with his comic scenes at the barber shop. Watch it if you must, but you won't be punching your eyes out at the end. Rating, based on B westerns, 4.
  • kfo949410 August 2018
    This is a classic Saturday Matinee western with all the trappings of the era. Heroic cowboy, funny side-kick, henchmen, pretty girl and fist-a-cuffs galore- a typical good time in the local theater on Saturday afternoon.

    The film was produced by PRC Pictures a famous 'skid-row' company that produced over 300 films in its short lifetime. And in this concept it made about sixteen films with Buster Crabbe and Al Fuzzy St John keeping the west safe- all over a three year period. That is some rushed production schedule.

    There's really not much to this story that has not already been played out in many westerns. Crabbe, playing the white hat cowboy Billy Carson, is hired by a man to inspect the land where a new railroad would be built. But before Carson can get to the area, some thugs have killed the man and is now trying to buy up all the property before the railroad. Carson has to get evidence that the thugs are the one that killed the man and put a stop to their property take-over.

    There is nothing really remarkable about the film as it played out as expected. Crabbe, who had already played cowboy star in the Billy-the-Kid serials, seemed a bit rough in this production. His acting was quite stiff and rehearsed in nearly every scene. But Crabbe, as always, was excellent in the fight scenes. Fuzzy St.John was his usual self by being the comic relief to every situation [laying it up for all its worth. And even if you did not like the story you have to agree that St.John was doing his best in a way that only he can perform.

    Even with the less than desirable story-line, the film fulfilled its desired responsibility. It was cheaply made, provided some entertainment and ended with desired results. And yes, Crabbe's white hat never hit the ground in the ending fight scene. For a 'B' western that about all you can ask
  • arfdawg-123 April 2014
    With the railroad coming to Red Rock, trouble is expected and Billy has been sent to help his friend Fuzzy who is the town's Sheriff, Judge, and barber.

    When the man that sent Billy is murdered and the railroad location map stolen, broken match sticks point to Vic Landreau.

    While Billy tries to find the missing map, Landreau suspects Billy is on to him and plans to have him killed.

    One of the slowest westerns you'll ever see.

    Stars Buster Crabbe and Al St John who was related to Fatty Arbuckle and a friend of Buster Keaton.
  • First of all, it needs to be borne in mind that this is an unpretentious B-Western, not a big-budget "A" extravaganza. Some reviewers here seem to have measured this routine programmer against a more expensive set of standards. It is true that to today's audiences the comic sidekick, a staple in the B's, can seem contrived and unfunny, and Al "Fuzzy" St. John, whose career dates from the silent era, can seem especially out-dated and even bizarre -- that is, if one does not have a taste for slapstick antics and acrobatic-tinged mugging. But such was his appeal that he appeared in several hundred short silent films and sound features spanning three or four decades.

    Olympic gold medalist (swimming) Buster Crabbe was likewise a versatile and reliable performer, whether as Tarzan, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Captain Gallant (TV), cowboy hero, and supporting actor in some bigger-budgeted Westerns, and miscellaneous TV roles.

    It is also true that the "series Western" could have some occasional duds, and could become repetitious as audiences or actors had had their fill of too much sameness. Of course, to the die-hard fan, such familiarity and dependability is part of the appeal of the B-Westerns. And that includes favorite heavies -- in this case Charles King, Bob Cason, and Frank Ellis -- and the formulaic fisticuffs and chases.

    It also helps when there is an unexpected touch of humor or dialog. For just one example: hero Crabbe barges into the back room where baddie Charlie King is sitting at his desk. "I didn't hear you knock," says King dryly. Just as dryly, Crabbe calmly turns to the door he has just come through and raps on it a few times, and, totally unintimidated, again faces the scheming villain. Even some of Fuzzy's shenanigans Although sometimes Fuzzy's comic set-pieces seem to go on for too long, the humor extends to some of the bit players as well (watch for the oblivious checker players, the interpolation of the geezer in the bathtub, Fuzzy's whittling away at the customer's beard to create the likenesses of other famous historical figures. Everyone involves seem to be enjoying themselves, with the result that this entry in the "Billy Carson" series is a notch or two above what one might expect.

    Okay, it's not TRUE GRIT and it's not SHANE, but it's still a pleasurable little bit of entertainment.
  • Shadow Of Death has Buster Crabbe going to the small slap saddle town of Red Rock where his long time sidekick Al St. John where's all kind of hats like the Poohba of The Mikado. He's the town barber, sheriff, and justice of the peace and a few other things we might have found out about if the film was longer. Crabbe is investigating the murder of a railroad agent who was bringing a map showing where some choice properties were for a railroad right of way.

    Buster's problem in this one is Eddie Hall, a young tough who would like to make his name by nailing Billy The Kid. The real villain of this film perennial western heavy Charles King would like to make this happen as he exerts an Iago like influence on Hall. The Desdemona of the film is Dona Dax who Hall thinks that Crabbe is putting moves on. Truth be told, Buster would probably like to, but there's a job to be done first.

    You can find the influence of the Bard in some of the strangest places.
  • In this long in the tooth episode in Producers Releasing Corporation's Billy Carson series, Carson and sidekick Fuzzy Jones (this time working as a barber/justice of the peace) investigate the murder of a railroad man carrying secret plans for a railroad line.

    Shadows Of Death is a great title but the film itself is just plain awful. There's lots of hair-cutting, talking, and hanging around but little action. Billy and Fuzzy's sleuthing is pretty yawn inducing this go around.

    The best thing about this is the climactic fist fight at the end.

    Charles King (who's always good) plays the fat cat villain for the umpteenth time. This guy seems to come back more than Freddy Krueger!

    Watch some of Crabbe's earlier pictures instead.
  • Well, here's something I didn't know, aside from making laughable serials, Crabbe also made quite a number of westerns. Here, in the amazingly titled Shadows Of Death, Crabbe is presented as the "King of The Wild West" (??) and that he and his partner, affectionately (I'm sure) named Fuzzy (there's always a sidekick in these westerns that wind up with a stupid name) are presented as "Our Old Pals". Whatever you say Mr. Movie! Anyways, Crabbe arrives into town to help his friend Fuzzy with a suspicious individual who may or may not have murdered a courier with some important documents to widen a town. There's also a feeble love interest in there somewhere for good measure. All in all, this Western was certainly passable, it was certainly surprising to see Buster Crabbe in something else than Sci-Fi, and he actually looks comfortable in a cowboy hat. The plot is not bad, but I could have liked a little less stupid comedy from Fuzzy.

    All in all, not bad.