GHOST TOWN. Bel Air Productions / United Artists, 1956. Kent Taylor, John Smith, Marian Carr, Serena Sande, John Doucette, Joel Ashley, Gilman Rankin, William ‘Bill’ Phillips (the latter uncredited). Director: Allen H. Miner.

   When it comes to westerns made in the 1950s, I find that independently produced black and white movies such as this one are often a lot more fun to watch than some of those filmed in color with big name stars. It may be my own skewed vision of the world, but I think the more personal approach says more to me than do pictures filtered through the eyes of corporate accountants, say.

   This one starts slow, but the story wouldn’t have worked as well as it does without establishing who exactly the characters are and what’s motivating them, beginning with the four passengers in a stagecoach heading west through Indian territory: a young woman from Boston going to meet the man she is going to marry; a Bible-thumping preacher who has nothing but brotherly love for the noble savages; a doctor who spends most of the day taking long swigs from a bottle; and a well-dressed but still shady-looking gentleman of uncertain profession (Kent Taylor).

   Along the way they are joined by the young woman’s fiancĂ© (John Smith) and his crusty old sidekick Crusty (an unbilled Bill Phillips); an Army sergeant and his young son; and eventually a tongueless and disgraced Indian chief and his young mixed-heritage female companion.

   The stagecoach chased by a band of angry Indians, they manage to find refuge in an abandoned town, and that’s when all of their various secrets start to come out. None of these come as a complete surprise to those of us who have seen a lot of western movies, but it’s as smoothly done as it ever was ins bigger productions. There’s lot of action, too, for those who watch westerns only for the action.

   A couple of quibbles. The Indians at first abandon their chase when the stagecoach reaches the town — totally abandoned because of disease, they discover, and so, they assume, the Indians have marked the town as taboo. But for the sake of the story, though, once the fugitives are “safely” holed up inside the local saloon, the Indians show no signs of concern about bringing up the attack again.

   Which, of course, brings out either the best, or the worst, of each of those trapped inside, with very little ammunition to aid them.

   The other question I have is why on earth Bill Phillips gets no screen credit. He’s there primarily for comic relief, true, but he’s on the screen a lot more than some of the others who do get screen credit.