Reviewed by DAN STUMPF:         


HIDDEN GUNS. Republic, 1956. Bruce Bennett, Richard Arlen, Faron Young, John Carradine, Angie Dickinson. Written by Samuel Roeca and Al Gannaway. Director: Al Gannaway.

   This ain’t much good, but it’s off-beat enough to keep you watching. Bruce Bennett stars as a slimy saloon owner, complete with fancy vest, a cadre of dog-heavies, and dreams of a western empire founded on the land he steals from honest folk. Richard Arlen is Sheriff Ward Young, trying to round up a witness to Bennett’s latest atrocity, and country singer Faron Young is his son Faron (get it?) Angie Dickinson is the pretty young heroine with not much to do.

   Plot-wise, there may be a few surprises tossed into the formula, but it’s still a western-by-rote. The stunt work is up to the classic Republic standard, and the only real irritant is an off-screen chorus occasionally bursting into doggerel to sing us what we already know, like,

“The Sher-riff had to find his man,
To tes-ti-fy,
And make a stand….”

   Blugh!

   But Hidden Guns leaps out of the ordinary the minute John Carradine comes on, laughing it up as a hired gun named Snipe Harding, making corny jokes, bursting into song, and generally having a fun time, as in:

    “How old are you, sonny?”

    “Seven.”

    “You should be ashamed! At your age, I was fourteen.”

   Actually, some of Carradine’s dialogue is so good — and delivered with such relish — I suspect he may have written it himself (or borrowed it from his friend W. C. Fields) certainly nothing else in the writers’ or director’s oeuvre suggests such talent for bizarre zaniness.

   The rest of the crowd is nothing but solid. Richard Arlen, a western stalwart since The Virginian (1929) is reliably heroic as the beleaguered lawman, Faron Young makes an adequate juvenile lead, and Angie Dickenson fills her nothing part rather well. Bruce Bennett plays his raffish baddie like an actor who knows he’s stuck in B-mnovies, and it adds an edge of nasty desperation that works here.

   It’s Carradine’s show, though, and he makes a rather ordinary thing worthy of note.