Rocky Lane (Allan Lane), a U.S. marshal, has arrived in town to help his friend Nugget (Eddy Waller), a freight runner. Nugget has been having a problem with bandits robbing him of his shipments.
After learning that the robbers have only targeted incoming shipments, Rocky begins to think that the band of thieves have been repackaging the shipments and bringing them back to Nugget to be shipped out.
Now that he’s figured out exactly what the robbers are doing, Rocky comes up with a plan. He decides to pose as an outlaw himself, hijacking one of their outgoing shipments so they’ll have to strike a deal with him… and reveal their own identities to him in the process. All is going well until the big boss of the bandits learns that Rocky is a marshal rather than an outlaw.
Black Hills Ambush was released in 1952 by Republic Pictures. The film was directed by Harry Keller.
This is part of a series of over thirty B-westerns in which Allan Lane starred as “Rocky,” one of his most famous roles. All thirty-something of these films were released between 1947 and 1953, so Black Hills Ambush comes somewhat late in the series. Lane is also known as the voice of the horse (of course, of course) on televison’s Mr. Ed.
The “Lindsey Tries to Appreciate Westerns” series must be working its magic on me. I selected this film on Netflix one Sunday morning not because I felt obligated to add another installment to the series, but because I was in the mood for a western! (Believe me, I’m just as shocked as you are… probably more.)
Black Hills Ambush is a pretty typical cowboy b-movie. Lawman comes to town, hatches a plan to get the bad guys, and finds himself in trouble before ultimately finding victory. This is the first film I’ve seen from the Rocky Lane series, but I’m sure they all follow pretty much this exact trajectory, as many minor westerns do.
Regardless of its typicality, though, Black Hills Ambush is a great little watch. It’s set apart from the rest of the pack by the authenticity of its performances. The stars are all very buyable in their roles and don’t just seem like actors decked out in Western garb.
The pace of the film is also very fast and exciting (as it should be, with only 53 minutes to tell the story). It doesn’t rely completely on gunfights and action to entertain the viewer, but these scenes pop up just frequently enough that the film is very lively without sacrificing its storytelling in the process.
I look forward to watching more Rocky Lane films. I enjoyed this one a lot.
Did it boost my appreciation of the Western genre? YES
The score: 4/5
I AM surprised you went out of your way to watch a Western! But…I’m still waiting for reviews of Jeremiah Johnson, Red River, and The Outlaw Josey Wales! And because we’re on the subject, I’m going to throw in another rec: High Noon.
My library used to stock Josey Wales but some idiot lost it (or never returned it) and they haven’t replaced it. Eventually, though, I will get around to them! I should be able to tape Red River from TCM on Monday.
Augh! I didn’t know ‘Red River’ was playing soon! I’ll tape it, too…I was just telling my brother about my favorite moment from that film. We’ll have to discuss it after you see it.