|(From Old Corral collection)
Above - the black caped Tom Keene - along with lots of cobwebs and a skeletal helper - highlight the eerie atmosphere of GHOST VALLEY (RKO, 1932).
Above are screen captures of silent screen veteran Sheldon Lewis as the disfigured Phantom in Ken Maynard's TOMBSTONE CANYON (KBS WorldWide, 1932). Lewis did his own makeup for this role.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
In THE VANISHING RIDERS (Spectrum, 1935), Bill Cody Senior and Junior - and their trusty steeds - get dressed up in skeleton costumes to put a scare into Wally Wales and his gang of rustlers.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is a photo of the title lobby card for THE RAWHIDE TERROR (Security, 1934). This chaotic mess was a "Victor Adamson Presents an Art Mix Production", and a photo of Adamson / Dixon is shown in the upper left. Edmund Cobb (shown center) was kinda the star, even though he's listed second below William (Bill) Desmond. Also acting as the hero was George Kesterson/Art Mix but he kinda disappears. Bill Patton (moustached, wearing dark shirt, gloves, jacket) is to the left of heroine Frances Morris. In the upper right is William Barrymore (Boris Bullock) as the "Rawhide Terror". Scuttlebutt was that TERROR was originally planned as a serial, but never came to fruition. Thus, when Victor Adamson/Denver Dixon slapped this together as a feature, continuity and logic were lost.
Above are screen captures of William Barrymore (Boris Bullock) in his guise as the "Rawhide Terror". Leave it to Denver Dixon / Victor Adamson to pioneer a villain wearing an early version of Hannibal Lecter's mask.
(From Old Corral collection)
Above from L-to-R are Smiley Burnette, great rider Betsy King Ross, Gene Autry at the microphone, and Frankie Darro in a lobby card from THE PHANTOM EMPIRE (Mascot, 1935). This was Gene's first starring film, directed by Otto Brower, and the second unit director was B. Reeves "Breezy" Eason. Antagonists were the underground civilization of Murania and its "Thunder Riders". Always in trouble, Gene had to get back to Radio Ranch in order to sing some tunes and do his required radio broadcasts. Autry had signed a contract with Levine and Mascot, and he went along in the mid 1930s deal that formed Republic Pictures with the combining of Mascot, Monogram, et al.
(From Old Corral collection)
Above is the title lobby card from Tom Tyler's THE PHANTOM OF THE RANGE (Victory, 1936). A white robed marauder on a white hoss is purported to be the ghost of a dead rancher who kept a treasure hidden on his ranch. Veteran story and screenplay writer Basil Dickey was responsible for the PHANTOM screenplay. A few years later, Dickey re-used the story for Tim McCoy's STRAIGHT SHOOTER (Victory, 1939).
(Pressbook cover courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is the pressbook cover for the cliffhanger THE PHANTOM RIDER (Universal, 1936). Undercover ranger Buck Jones dons a white face mask and cape to battle Harry Woods and gang.
Above is a screen capture from RIDERS OF THE WHISTLING SKULL (Republic, 1937), the fourth film in the Three Mesquiteers series. The intrepid trio of Bob Livingston, Ray 'Crash' Corrigan, and Max Terhune are with an expedition searching for a missing archaeologist and a lost city. At about 35 minutes into the film, they come across the skull, high atop a mountain overlooking the lost city. And desert winds blowing through the skeletal head cause a strange whistling sound. Superb B western with atmosphere, story, action ... everything.
(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)
Above are the 'Roving Buckaroos' - from L-to-R are Sonny Lamont, Larry Mason (Art Davis) and Monte 'Alamo' Rawlins wearin' the cape in their one trio adventure, ADVENTURES OF THE MASKED PHANTOM (Equity, 1939). Rawlins' real name was Dean Spencer. Davis had done singing and fiddlin' with Gene Autry, Bill Elliott, Jack Luden and Tim McCoy. And in the early 1940s, he'd team up with Lee 'Lone Ranger' Powell and Bill 'Cowboy Rambler' Boyd in the weak Frontier Marshal trio series that was churned out by PRC.
(From Old Corral collection)
The masked and caped Ken Maynard is atop the new (and white) Tarzan II in this title lobby card from PHANTOM RANCHER (Colony, 1940) which was released in the Spring of 1940. He plays a Robin Hood type character helping Dorothy Short and other ranchers save their ranches from Ted Adams and gang.
(From Old Corral collection)
Above from L-to-R are John 'Dusty' King, Fred 'Snowflake' Toones, Charlie King, Rex Lease, Bud Osborne, Glenn Strange and Max Terhune in a lobby card from HAUNTED RANCH (Monogram, 1943). Stunt wizard Dave Sharpe started the film as a member of the trio but had to exit for World War II duty. Veteran Rex Lease came in to finish the film. Not any ghosts or haunting in this. The scene in this lobby card is just prior to the closing brawl ... then Fred Toones discovers the "Little Brown Jug" tune which must be played on the organ ... and playing the song opens a secret wall passage with missing gold from the Denver Mint.
(From Old Corral collection)
THE WHISPERING SKULL (PRC, 1944) is one of the better adventures in PRC's Texas Rangers trio series. Tex Ritter, Dave O'Brien and Guy Wilkerson are after a mysterious night rider that wears a skull like mask and rides a horse that makes no noise and leaves no tracks.
(in release year order)
PHANTOM OF THE WEST (Mascot, 1930; serial)
Tom Tyler's father is murdered and Tyler and Dorothy Gulliver spend 10 chapters trying to track down the killer. And there's caped mystery riders and a dark cloaked Phantom (voiced by Walter Miller, who also does the chapter recap narratives). This is Mascot's second sound serial and is rather crude and creaky.
LIGHTNING WARRIOR (Mascot, 1931; serial)
Frankie Darro, Rin-Tin-Tin, and a young George Brent vs. a black-cloaked rider known as the "Wolfman". Rinty is the "Lightning Warrior".
MYSTERY TROOPER (Syndicate, 1931; serial)
Early sound serial with a ghost town, a hunt for a map to a lost gold mine, and a caped protagonist called the "Mystery Trooper" who helps Robert Frazer, Blanche Mehaffey and Buzz Barton in their battles with Al Ferguson and gang.
✓ HAUNTED GOLD (Warners, 1932)
Plenty of secret passages, sliding panels, hooded figures and graveyards as John Wayne and Sheila Terry search an old ghost town for the "Phantom of the Mine". Atmosphere, story, action, stunts, etc. make this the best of Wayne's Warner series. Includes the memorable battle in a cable car above the mine.
✓ GHOST VALLEY (RKO, 1932)
Top-knotch RKO oater features a desert ghost town, an abandoned gold mine, and star Tom Keene donning a cape and portraying a vengeful night rider.
FOURTH HORSEMAN (Universal, 1932)
One of Tom Mix's nine sound films for Universal - and one of the best. It's Tom versus Fred Kohler Sr. Not much in the way of spookiness ... but there is a ghost town.
✓ TOMBSTONE CANYON (KBS/World Wide, 1932)
Ken Maynard and pretty Cecilia Parker versus a mysterious, dark-cloaked phantom killer with a disfigured face and blood curdlin' scream. Exterior location is Red Rock Canyon and this is one of Maynard's best. See screen captures on the left.
HIDDEN VALLEY (Monogram, 1932)
This is the one with Bob Steele and the real-life Goodyear blimp over Lone Pine, California. And great camera work by Archie Stout. Steele is wrongly convicted of murdering an archeologist, escapes custody, and winds up hunting for the real killers. And the pursuit includes an Indian tribe and a hidden valley of gold and turquoise.
FIGHTING WITH KIT CARSON (Mascot, 1933; serial)
Not much spookiness in this tale of Johnny Mack Brown versus Noah Beery, Sr. and his gang of black clothed and caped "mystery riders".
GORDON OF GHOST CITY (Universal 1933; serial)
Buck Jones, Madge Bellamy and her grandfather are looking for a gold mine underneath a building in "Ghost City". But there's a mystery man out to foil their plans.
✓ MYSTERY MOUNTAIN (Mascot, 1934; serial)
Twelve chapters of Ken Maynard and Tarzan versus the masked and caped "Rattler".
✓ THE RAWHIDE TERROR (Security, 1934)
A Victor Adamson / Denver Dixon ultra low budget production that was originally planned as a serial ... but was never completed. Slapped together as a feature, this mess has Edmund Cobb, Art Mix / George Kesterson, and others up against William Barrymore (Boris Bullock) as the masked and crazy "Rawhide Terror". Leave it to Adamson to pioneer a villain wearing an early version of Hannibal Lecter's mask. See screen captures on the left.
✓ THE PHANTOM EMPIRE (Mascot, 1935; serial)
Not much spookiness in this crazy and wonderful western / sci-fi chapterplay which is Gene Autry's first starring role. It does have the underground kingdom of Murania, robots, flame guns, death rays, and a bunch of Muranian horsemen, and when they gallop, their hosses produce a deep thunder like resonance. Also battlin' Gene are scientist J. Frank Glendon and his minions who are trying to locate radium deposits. Autry is in constant trouble, but must do his daily Radio Ranch broadcast or lose the radio contract. And who can forget Frankie Darro, Betsy King Ross, and the Junior Thunder Riders ridin' "To The Rescue!".
THE MIRACLE RIDER (Mascot, 1935; serial)
Tom Mix's last film was this wunnerful fifteen episode cliffhanger with Ranger Tom vs. Charles 'Ming' Middleton. Not much ghostly stuff in this ... but there's the radio controlled "Firebird" glider, a super-duper explosive called X-94, and TV screens used by Middleton to communicate with his gang.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN MYSTERY (Paramount, 1935)
Randolph Scott oater with a plot involving a spooky house, murder, and a killer wearing black.
✓ VANISHING RIDERS (Spectrum, 1935)
Bill Cody Senior and Junior decorate themselves and their steeds in skeleton costumes ... to scare Wally Wales and his gang of rustlers.
GHOST TOWN GOLD (Republic, 1936)
The second Three Mesquiteer yarn - and the first for Max Terhune and his alter ego Elmer - takes place in a ghost town with Milburn Morante as a crazed miner.
GHOST PATROL (Puritan, 1936)
No ghosts in this. Federal agent Tim McCoy has to unravel the mysterious disappearances of U. S. Mail planes which are being blown out of the sky by a death ray.
PHANTOM OF THE RANGE (Victory, 1936)
Tom Tyler yarn about a white cloaked rider, a ghost of a rancher, and the search for hidden treasure. Veteran story / screenplay writer Basil Dickey was responsible for the PHANTOM OF THE RANGE screenplay. A few years later, Dickey re-used the story for Tim McCoy's STRAIGHT SHOOTER (Victory, 1939).
PHANTOM RIDER (Universal, 1936; serial)
Buck Jones is a lawman sent by the Governor to Hidden Valley to track down a band of outlaws led by Harry Woods. Jones goes undercover, disguising himself with an all white costume and cape as the "Phantom Rider".
DESERT PHANTOM (Supreme, 1936)
A phantom sniper is trying to drive Sheila Mannors off her ranch and has killed her brother and some ranch hands. Johnny Mack Brown comes to her rescue.
✓ RIDERS OF THE WHISTLING SKULL (Republic, 1937)
The fourth Three Mesquiteers outing is one of their best ... and universally regarded as an exceptional B western. There's spooky shadows, Indian drums, a skull-shaped rock formation known as the Whistling Skull, and an expedition to find a a missing archaeologist and a lost city. Veteran Oliver Drake co-authored the screenplay for WHISTLING. Years later, Drake re-used it for the Charlie Chan mystery, THE FEATHERED SERPENT (Monogram, 1948). Bob Livingston acted in both WHISTLING and SERPENT. See screen capture on the left.
MYSTERY OF THE HOODED HORSEMEN (Grand National, 1937)
Tex Ritter has to fight off a mystery villain and a bunch of hooded riders in this lukewarm oater.
UTAH TRAIL (Grand National, 1938)
Tex Ritter and sidekicks Horace Murphy and Snub Pollard versus Karl Hackett, Charlie King, et al and their "ghost train".
ADVENTURES OF THE MASKED PHANTOM (Equity, 1939)
Monte 'Alamo' Rawlins (Dean Spencer) wears a cape and has Sonny Lamont and Larry Mason (Art Davis) as his sidekicks. Not much creepiness or ghostly bits in this mess. And our caped hero tosses steak knives (with a smiling death head handle) at the bad guys. Originally planned as a new trio series, this was the first - and last - adventure for the 'Roving Buckaroos'.
THE RANGE BUSTERS (Monogram, 1940)
The initial entry in the twenty four Range Busters adventures has Ray Corrigan, John King and Max Terhune in a whodunit about a black cloaked phantom killer at the Circle T Ranch. And there's a hidden vein of gold and a mine under the ranch house. Is the phantom Leroy Mason ... or Earle Hodgins ... or Frank LaRue?
PHANTOM RANCHER (Colony, 1940)
Ken Maynard dons a cape and mask to play a Robin Hood character battlin' Ted Adams and gang who are trying to take over some ranches.
SKY BANDITS (Monogram, 1940)
Another "airplanes being shot out of the sky by a death ray" theme similar to Tim McCoy's GHOST PATROL (Puritan, 1936). The hero is melodic James Newill as "Renfrew of the Royal Mounted".
THE TRAIL OF THE SILVER SPURS (Monogram, 1941)
Range Busters adventure about a ghost town, secret passages in an old hotel, and I. Stanford Jolley as a mysterious killer named "The Jingler".
MYSTERIOUS RIDER (PRC, 1942)
Buster Crabbe (as Billy the Kid) and trail pard Al 'Fuzzy' St. John find trouble with John Merton and gang who are operating out of a ghost town and searching for a lost vein of gold. Fuzzy does some funny - and spooky - comic bits.
✓ GHOST TOWN LAW (Monogram, 1942)
Rough Riders yarn with Buck Jones, Tim McCoy, and Raymond Hatton dealing with hidden tunnels, masked figures, secret passages, and a gang of outlaws trying to conceal a lost vein of gold running under an ol' dark house. A lot of "old dark house" atmosphere but not much action.
THE GHOST RIDER (Monogram, 1943)
Johnny Mack Brown's first western for Monogram has him portraying a ghost rider out to avenge those who killed his family.
HAUNTED RANCH (Monogram, 1943)
Monogram's Range Busters - John 'Dusty' King, Max 'Alibi' Terhune, and the third member is Dave Sharpe (first 1/2 of the film) and Rex Lease (last 1/2 of the film). Sharpe had to leave for World War II duty in the middle of this and Lease came in as his replacement. The plotline is about hidden gold on a haunted ranch. Alas - not much haunting goin' on. And the secret to the location of the gold involves a tune played on a organ.
✓ WILD HORSE PHANTOM (PRC, 1944)
This Buster Crabbe entry includes some typical Al 'Fuzzy' St. John comical hijinks as he gets attacked by a large bat while searching for some hidden loot in an old mine. Budd Buster plays a crazy miner. Ever thrifty PRC dragged the winged bat critter out of mothballs - probably the same flying bat prop used several years earlier in Bela Lugosi's THE DEVIL BAT (PRC, 1940).
GHOST GUNS (Monogram, 1944)
In this Johnny Mack Brown oater, Jack Ingram gets scared when the good guys and gals stage a ghostly appearance of Riley Hill, whom the baddies thought they had killed.
✓ HIS BROTHER'S GHOST (PRC, 1945)
Al 'Fuzzy' St. John plays a dual role as brothers in this Buster Crabbe oater, which is among the best of their long running PRC series. Andy Jones is killed by the no-goods, and Fuzzy does a ghostly impersonation of his brother to scare and snare the villains.
SPOOK TOWN (PRC, 1944)
Not much spookiness goin' on here - Texas Rangers Dave O'Brien, Jim Newill and Guy Wilkerson versus an outlaw band that operates out of a ghost town.
✓ THE WHISPERING SKULL (PRC, 1944)
Texas Rangers Tex Ritter, Dave O'Brien and Guy Wilkerson vs. a mysterious night rider that wears a leather mask with a skull imprint. He also rides a horse that makes no noise and leaves no tracks.
SUNSET IN EL DORADO (Republic, 1945)
One of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans best. In this, Dale journeys west to learn more about her grandmother, who was once the queen of the Golden Nugget saloon. When Dale's car breaks down, Roy rescues her and takes her to El Dorado which is now a ghost town. And in a dream sequence, Dale becomes "Kansas Kate", her own grandmother.
GHOST OF HIDDEN VALLEY (PRC, 1946)
Not much in the way of ghost, goblins and scary stuff. In this Buster Crabbe and Al 'Fuzzy' St. John entry, the no-goods hide rustled stock on Hidden Valley Ranch and ol' Fuzzy goes on and on about his fear of ghosts.
HAUNTED MINE (Monogram, 1946)
Secret passages, an old mine, and a crazed killer that uses a razor to slash his victims add up to one of Johnny Mack Brown's better "Nevada Jack MacKenzie" adventures.
BANDITS OF DARK CANYON (Republic, 1947)
Allan 'Rocky' Lane is a Texas Ranger who encounters a ghost town, an empty grave, and a lost gold mine.
DANGEROUS VENTURE (United Artists, 1947)
William Boyd (as Hopalong Cassidy) and his saddle pals, Rand Brooks and Andy Clyde, get tangled up with a "ghost Indian tribe" that are accused of rustling.
UNEXPECTED GUEST (United Artists, 1947)
Hopalong Cassidy adventure with William Boyd, Rand Brooks and Andy Clyde versus a mysterious killer wearing black.
RIMFIRE (Lippert/Screen Guild, 1949)
Townsfolk strung up the Abilene Kid in error ... and the Kid's ghost takes revenge on those who hung him.
✓ RIDERS IN THE SKY (Columbia, 1949)
Gene Autry sings "Ghost Riders In the Sky" and relates the story behind the tune to fellow ranch hands. The ending has Gene singing the title song - and an oldtimer played by Tom London is riding a white horse in the clouds as the newest member of the band of ghost riders.
RIM OF THE CANYON (Columbia, 1949)
Gene Autry plays a dual role as himself and his father. Gene winds up in a ghost town where pretty Nan Leslie is trying to contact the ghost of Thurston Hall.
WHISTLING HILLS (Monogram, 1951)
Johnny Mack Brown and pal James Ellison in a tale of stage robberies and a black caped, whistling ghost rider.