GOLDTOWN GHOST RIDERS (1953)
Directed by George Archainbaud
Featuring Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Gail Davis
What it is: Weird Western
Gene Autry arrests a man for murder who claims that he can't be convicted for his victim's death because he's already served his sentence for killing the man. The whole story is then told in flashback.
Though you can't really tell it from the plot description, there is a fantastic element to the story; one of the plot details involves a gang of ghost riders who emerge from Ghost Canyon to frighten prospectors away from their claims. However, I must admit that this element of the story is pretty disappointing; when they appear, they look very much like ordinary cowboys, and the only proof we have that they're ghost riders is because Smiley Burnette says they are, and that means that the fantastic content of this movie has been left in the hands of the comic relief. Furthermore, the whole "ghost rider" part of the story is a pretty clumsy plot contrivance that does little more than lend an element of confusion to the story. Gene Autry does a fine job and sings a couple of songs, but I have to admit that I'm not a Smiley Burnette fan, and this movie just features way too much of him for my taste. The movie also tries to have it both ways as far as the fantastic content goes, but if the ending was supposed to send a shiver up my spine, it didn't work. This is not a favorite of mine from this subgenre.