Sunset Carson is a Texas Ranger reassigned to investigate suspicious activity around the town of Quartzville. Fear of a supposed small pox epidemic has scared off most of residents, but a defiant old rancher intends to stay put despite the advice of his doctor and lawyer. Sunset and his sidekick, Lucky, stick around as they uncover the bad guys and save the day.
If a B movie starts off with narration, look out. That usually is a sign of a poorly made movie. Surpringly, Battling Marshal has a good script within the context of B westerns. The hero, Sunset Carson, is smart and the characters around him are interesting. Like most cowboy stars, Sunset's appearance was more important than his acting. By the time this movie was made he had learned enough about acting to make himself a good leading man. With a good story to follow, Sunset could do no wrong.
At a time when there was no budget for more than one take everything had to be perfect the first time. Sometimes sets suffered from a lack of detail or they were obviously faked. Westerns had the luxury of using outdoors scenery and cheap, old shacks and houses for sets. Bad production values are worse than bad acting. While the sets are appropriate, many of the camera angles and film edits look bad. There are no bad actors in Battling Marshal, but everything works against them. Oliver Drake should have done better.
The fight scenes were quite different from the standard set in the Republic westerns. Someone made the effort to make them more lively and possibly more realistic. Seeing knee-to-chest hits and some high kicks gives the impression that the choreography was influenced by professional wrestling or martial arts training. What killed the effect of the fight scenes was the fact that in most scenes it was absolutely visible that punches did not connect with faces. The illusion of a real fight was lost. Not only that, the sound effects that accompanied most screen fights was missing. There was no "SPLAP!" every time someone got hit.
There were very few interior scenes in Battling Marshall, but there were a few inside the ranch house. The view showed far too much height of the walls, making it obvious there was no ceiling on that set, but that was typical of all the camera shots.
Despite how cheap Battling Marshal appears, it is a good movie. Sunset Carson's biggest victory is not in defeating the crooks, but in defying the low quality film making.
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