Until I stumbled across this movie, GUNFIGHTERS OF ABILENE(1960 in black and white), I’d never thought of Larry “Buster” Crabbe as a western actor. His three turns as Flash Gordon, one as Buck Rogers, and one Tarzan serial(the only actor to play those three iconic characters) cemented exactly who he was in my mind. But a gunfighter?
The plot’s not new. The rich rancher that forged the trail resenting those that came later, “nesters” as he calls them, and willing to do anything to stop them. And there’s a plot hole or two in the film. Rich rancher’s daughter in love with the man who stands in his way.
Kip Tanner(Crabbe) is headed to Abilene to see his brother after a three month old letter asking for his help had caught up with him. That was unusual as the brothers hadn’t seen each other in years as Gene disapproved of the gunman lifestyle. Now his brother was asking for those guns.
Kip gets waylaid by three masked men demanding his brother’s location so they could get the $68,000 dollars Gene had stolen from them. Right away Kip knew that could never be. His brother was too honest to steal, a fact that wouldn’t change no matter how many years separated them. The trio rush off when the sheriff comes along and Kip gets a warning. And the story.
His brother Gene convinces the small ranchers to band their herds together and drive them to market. They get a premium price and the money’s being sent by Wells Fargo to Abilene. The stage is held up and the driver hears one of the masked men call another Gene. To top that off, Gene hasn’t been seen in three months, just before the robbery.
Kip decides he has to find his brother and clear his name. As to the robbery, it was mighty careless of the robbers to be using names in a hold-up. Mighty stupid or someone wanted the name to be heard.
He wants to talk to that stage driver and goes looking for him, only to have the man shot in his room as he’s headed there. Kip is arrested for the murder despite his protestations.
Here’s where things break down. Kip tells them his gun hasn’t been fired and rich rancher’s son says he’s had time to reload the pistol. I’ll give the filmmakers kudos fore one thing. The sheriff is an honest man and stands up to the rich rancher despite threats. But he doesn’t bother to check Kip’s guns. A gunfighter like Kip would take care of his guns. Sure, he could have reloaded his guns, but they still would have smelled of exploded gun powder.
Kip gets broken out of jail just ahead of a lynch mob, instigated by rich man’s son, and now has to clear his own name as well.
Not a great movie and full of miscues. Escaping under fire, Kip’s horse lopes out of the scene with bullets from three guns flying by his head. In another, where Kip draws and shoots the gun from rich man’s son’s hand, rather slowly I thought, the sheriff’s comment is, “Pretty fast!”
Things like that drew a snicker from me. But if one doesn’t expect much, you can enjoy this one.