31 March 2012 | DLewis
The Last of the Lash
"The Frontier Phantom" is notable as the final film in Al St. John's canon of 350 or more films that began in 1913 at Keystone, as well as the final film in the regular Lash La Rue western series. One might have wished for a finer farewell for these fellows, but the 1952 material is merely an extended framing sequence for long inserts drawn from the 1949 feature "Outlaw Country." Ironically, the 1952 footage is a little more polished than that of 1949 and has the pacing and style of television. Shortly after this, Ron Ormond created a TV show for Lash La Rue called "Lash of the West" that used a similar format; Lash telling a story about a relative that is illustrated in sequences drawn from preexisting pictures. In the cheater segments, Lash and Al turn in their usual, professional performances and Virginia Herrick puts in a plucky performance as the girl bringing food to the jail where all of the main characters are holed up for awhile waiting for the bad guys. It's mildly entertaining, and certainly not at the level of a great Lash-Fuzzy western as "King of the Bullwhip (1950)." But for fans there is a certain sentimental value in seeing these great B-western characters play out their last parts; while the B-western was still kicking in 1952, it wouldn't be for long. The popularity of drive-ins -- which favored a different kind of B-level entertainment -- drove the B-western onto television briefly, and was then made obsolete by the advent of shows like "Gunsmoke." So this one's mainly for the die-hards, but a well-informed die-hard should thoroughly enjoy this for at least one play.