Some movies are so bad they’re good, and some movies are just ... bad. My husband and I enjoy watching them both and I thought it would be fun to share the best of the worst. So without further ado, here’s my bad movie review of the week. I leave it up to you to decide whether the movie is bad, or just the review. ;-)
I’m pretty sure there aren’t too many people who haven’t at least heard of this week’s movie. We actually lucked(?) into it. I just happened to see it listed on one of the new channels we’re getting with our current cable package and I recorded it with our TiVo.
This western was made in 1938 for an estimated budget of $100,000.00 and features Jed Buell’s Midgets - I kid you not. It’s right there in the opening credits. It was listed on our on-screen guide as being 90 minutes in length, but actually it was only 62. All I can say is, thank God!
Okay, first of all, it’s kind of hard to take the “terror” part seriously when we’ve got an all midget cast riding Shetland ponies and there in the opening credits is someone listed as “the vampire”. The vampire! Seriously? And just so you know, my review is based on the notes I took while watching, so it’s more like a running commentary. :-)
It begins with a man on a stage (the only regular sized person in the whole film) who tells us this film is the first of its kind and tells us not to take it too seriously. In comes Buck Larson, the hero, who says this is a serious film and he’s destined to become a great star. Then, of course, Bat Haines, the villain, puts in an appearance claiming he’s going to be the biggest star. They start fighting and the emcee tries to keep them apart and then the film starts.
And they start ... with singing. OMG, the humanity! A bunch of townsfolk, including our hero Buck, are gathered around a blacksmith who’s shoeing a regular sized horse, and everyone is singing. Make it stop!
Okay, finally we get to the nitty gritty. Pop Larson, Buck’s father, wants him to check things out on the north range, they’ve got cattle going missing. Off he goes. The action cuts to Bat Haines, who’s tending a fire while his gang chases down a calf (they can’t go after the cows because they’re bigger than the Shetland ponies they’re riding). Buck spots the smoke and draws his gun. The bad guys see him coming and ride off, leaving their branding iron behind.
Oh my. They speed up the film when they’re riding. I can’t believe we’re still watching this!
Buck takes the branding iron Bat left behind to the sheriff. The iron is from the ranch belonging to Tex Preston and it looks like he’s the one that’s been rustling the cattle. Meanwhile, Bat goes to Preston and tells him he found one of his cows that had been shot and there was a calf hanging around with Pop Larson’s brand on it. Then all of a sudden we get some comic relief in the form of Preston’s cook who’s trying to coax a duck close enough that he can kill it for supper - I don’t know if someone taught the duck to walk backwards or they just ran the film backwards - it’s just really bizarre.
Preston and his men go to town - his niece is due to arrive on the stagecoach. The sheriff comes over and warns him not to cause any trouble in town. Then we cut to Pop Larson and Buck (and their men). Larson tells Buck to keep looking for rustlers while he goes to town.
I’m pretty sure they deliberately set the swinging saloon doors up a little higher than normal because some of these guys can walk right under them. More singing. I’m dying here - the midget saloon girl sounds like Shirley Temple.
Bat takes the sheriff aside and warns him to stay out of what’s going on (the fact that he’s stealing cows from both ranches and getting them to blame each other). Then he asks him about some money that’s coming in on the stage - the sheriff reluctantly confirms this.
Preston goes to the barbershop for a shave in honour of his niece coming. Just when you think it can’t get any worse ... there’s a barbershop quartet singing in the barbershop. Oh, but it gets better. While the camera is panning from singer to singer, we see that there’s also a penguin in the barbershop. Say what? The song finishes up and Larson comes in. He and Preston trade insults.
The stage is coming. Bat and his gang are in place and start shooting at the stage. Buck and his men just happen to be in the neighbourhood and ride in to save the day. There’s a lot of shooting (sounds like cap guns) and both of the guys driving the stage end up getting shot. The bad guys see the good guys coming and run away. Buck sends his men after them while he goes after the runaway stage. He manages to stop it and then he and Nancy, Preston’s niece, ride on top back to town. Oops! Looks like he forgot about the horse he’d been riding.
So then we see Bat and his gang at their hideout and Bat is understandably angry with Buck, but hey, they’ve got dynamite - no idea what they’re planning to do with it, but I guess that’s beside the point.
One of Preston’s men comes to him and tells him their cattle are disappearing, so Preston decides to round up some gun slingers. Nancy decides to go for a ride and takes with her a huge picnic lunch. She meets up with Buck who just happened to have his guitar with him. I think there’s a bit of a Romeo and Juliette thing going on here - what with the trouble between their families and all.
Oh, no! More singing. There’s entirely too much singing in this travesty of a movie! Gene Autry he ain’t! And now she’s singing back to him - she sounds like Betty Boop. Buck doesn’t want to settle down until the feud between their families is resolved. And then they’re caught by Buck’s daddy. The two men argue and Nancy rides off. Buck follows her - she doesn’t want to come between father and son.
That low down pole cat Bat was spying on them from the bushes and witnessed the whole thing. Looks like he has an idea. He goes straight to Preston to rat them out. Preston rides off and catches up to the love birds on their way to town. He sends Nancy home, but then he and Buck talk and they realize there must be a third person involved with the cattle rustling. Preston agrees to meet with Buck’s father in town to settle this, and as they go their separate ways, Bat shoots Preston.
Bat then rides to the Preston ranch to tell everyone that Buck shot Tex. And of course they all believe him, although Nancy’s kind of unsure. Bat puts the moves on Nancy but she shoots him down, almost as badly as the Preston hands shoot at Buck when he rides up to talk. Run away, run away!
Meanwhile, at the saloon ... Oh good lord! It takes two to play the bass fiddle - one on a chair to do the fingering, and one stretching up to do the bowing. MORE singing! In comes Bat, who gives his saloon girl girlfriend the cold shoulder and tells the sheriff to arrest Buck for murder even though he confesses to being the culprit.
Buck goes to see Nancy, who holds a gun on him. She tells him that Bat Haines told her about her uncle’s murder and he realizes Bat must have done it - only two people knew Tex had been murdered, him and the murderer. Buck goes to the saloon and is promptly arrested.
Now we’re back at the Preston ranch again and Bat is trying to put the moves on Nancy again. Again she rebuffs him, so he retaliates by telling her that Tex owed him a lot of money. He leaves in a huff and goes back to the saloon where his girlfriend is ready to give him another chance, but he gives her the cold shoulder again. She’s not a happy camper.
Bat buys drinks for everyone at the bar to get them all liquored up. He convinces them (doesn’t take much) they shouldn’t wait for the judge but should string Buck up now. Nancy rides off to get Pop Larson. Bat’s ex-girlfriend threatens to tell the townsfolk what she knows and he slugs her.
Uh, oh! They’re going to lynch Buck. The sheriff’s had enough and tells everyone that Bat is the real murderer. Bat shoots him and escapes out the window. Pop Larson arrives and lets Buck out, who immediately goes after Bat. The sheriff lives long enough to tell them where Bat’s hideout is.
Riding, riding, riding.
The ex-girlfriend beats Bat to his hideout and lights a stick of dynamite, hiding it under the floorboards, then leaves through a window. Buck and Bat have a fist fight inside the hideout, the fuse is still burning, Nancy yells for Buck, he manages to knock Bat out and runs outside, Bat is about to shoot him in the back, and the hideout blows up. Buck and Nancy finally get to share that kiss.
This movie was totally deserving of a golden turkey - the story itself wasn’t bad, it was just the whole concept that was bad. As the hubby said, “I cannot believe we sat through the whole thing.”
I can’t believe he thought this was worthy of a review and not Robot Shark. ;-)
Oh, and the vampire? I had to look it up. It wasn’t a literal vampire, it’s just the name they gave to Bat’s saloon girl girlfriend.