I was so impressed with "Darn Good Westerns Box Set 1" which included the excellent films "Stranger on Horseback", "Four Fast Guns" and "Outlaw Women" that I decided Volume 2 was worth a shout. I wasn't wrong because it turned out to be just as a good. A great opportunity to watch little seen B westerns. This one has three more great little westerns.
"Shotgun" was interestingly co-scripted by Rory Calhoun who hoped to star in it before it became an Allied Artists project. It was directed by the prolific B western director Lesley Selander and starred the physically imposing Sterling Hayden who also happened to be a very good actor. Better than Calhoun! Hayden is the deputy on the trail of the man who's blown a marshall in half with a shotgun. He is joined by a bounty hunter, played by another great actor Zachary Scott and the pretty Yvonne De Carlo who he picks up along the way. Pretty women always seemed to get picked up along the way! The colour cinematography is superb by Ellsworth Fredericks and it is a decent script. Well done Calhoun! The film has an excellent climactic gun battle. A very decent film indeed.
"Panhandle", is slightly marred by the poor quality sepia print. Otherwise it is an excellent film. This one is again directed by Selander and is perhaps more interesting as it was Blake Edwards first foray into production. This one and "Stampede" won him praise as an inventive and literate writer/producer of B westerns. This film is notable for a very decent script. Edwards also multi tasks as a chief heavy. Rod Cameron is the gunfighter out to avenge the death of his brother. He takes on the villains with guns and fists, both of which he is mighty handy with! Not easy when they are more comfortable shooting you in the back! Edwards of course later became more famous for the Pink Panther films, but returned brilliantly to the genre in 1971 with "Wild Rovers".
"Hellgate" is a very unusual and interesting film. Directed by another B western specialist Charles Marquis Warren it is very slickly handled. It again stars Sterling Hayden, this time as a man wrongly accused of of being a confederate spy and imprisoned in the brutal Hellgate prison in New Mexico where escape is not an option, or so Ward Bond the officer in charge thinks! One of the more interesting scenes was where those two Hollywood giants Hayden and James Arness of "Gunsmoke" fame go head to head. This was one of the better pictures to come out of the poverty row Lippert Pictures Studio. Not only did it boast the John Ford stalwart Ward Bond but it also boasted the always excellent Robert Wilke. The film is an imaginative reworking of John Ford's "The Prisoner of Shark Island" and is well worth watching.
This is a very strong box set of little seen B westerns that are well worth catching. Both box sets are well worth adding to the collection of the avid western fan.