"Goldtown Ghost Riders" uses a somewhat convoluted plot interpretation of the concept of double jeopardy, in which a man who already served a ten year sentence for murder decides he's going to kill the man he was convicted of killing in the first place. With the story told in flashback style, you have to pay attention or get lost quickly as circuit judge Gene Autry tries to make sense of what's going on and see to it that justice is served. Complicating things even more is Smiley Burnette's explanation of the ghost riders of the title, a band of mystical horsemen who ride white horses and protect their land from unwelcome miners and prospectors. You see, the Ghost Canyon gold strike of a decade earlier proved a bust, but partners Ed Wheeler (Kirk Riley) and Jim Granby (Carleton Young) used news of their initial find to fraudulently sell mining claims. This probably didn't have to be so complicated, but at least it made you pay attention.
I got a kick out of one of Smiley's novelty songs in which he accented his story of a burro with a loud 'hee-haw', which sounded strangely similar to the bray of 'Dominic the Christmas Donkey' almost a decade later. I wonder if Smiley provided that inspiration.
Regular Gail Davis is part of the cast here, and old time movie fans will quickly recognize character actors Denver Pyle and John Doucette as a couple of henchmen. Considering that Gene had done a picture four years earlier called 'Riders in the Sky' (shortened from 'Ghost Riders in the Sky'), I'm a little surprised he didn't reprise the song from that picture here, as it would have been appropriate to support the idea of the title. There was even a dreamlike sequence in Smiley's telling of the story; it could have been the same one from the earlier picture, but I don't think so. I would have remembered all the white horses.
B Western fans can have some fun putting together a list of other ghost town related stories. Ones I've already seen include a 1936 Three Mesquiteers flick called "Ghost-Town Gold", Buck Jones and the Rough Riders in 1942's "Ghost Town Law", and a Lash La Rue entry from 1947 titled "Ghost Town Renegades". Probably the best recommendation though, would be a 1932 John Wayne oater called "Haunted Gold", which actually has a pretty good story and is the best of the ones I just mentioned.