TOMBSTONE CANYON. Sono Art-World Wide Pictures, 1932. Ken Maynard, Cecelia Parker, Sheldon Lewis, Frank Brownlee, Jack Clifford. Director: Alan James.

   For a low-budget programmer, Tombstone Canyon isn’t that bad. As a matter of fact, this quirky, surprisingly violent Western starring Ken Maynard has a decent enough story. Maynard, who had a prolific career in Westerns, portrays “Ken,” a man in search of his true identity. Who was his father? Where did he come from? In order to get the answers he seeks, he travels to a town a stone’s throw away from Tombstone Canyon. There, he plans to meet a man who knows the secret to his past.

   But when the man who knows Ken’s secret past turns up dead and a grotesquely disfigured man in a black cape called The Phantom appears on the scene, things get weird. Not so much supernatural weird, but just a bit off kilter. Tombstone Canyon is surprisingly atypical; there’s no singing, almost no humor to speak of, and a level of brutality that wasn’t typical in films of this era.

   That’s not to say that the movie is some forgotten classic. It really isn’t. This is largely due to the fact that the movie’s means of telling a compelling story is altogether clunky and haphazard. Part of this, of course, is reflective of the time period in which the movie was made. So you end up seeing the texts of written letters on screen as a means of advancing the story and listening to dialogue that feels more like exposition than what would naturally flow from fully developed characters.

   Nevertheless, there’s something about Tombstone Canyon that makes it worth watching. It’s almost as if the filmmakers were wanting to do so much more than their financial and technical limitations would allow. This may be just another an average Western, but I’d very much consider giving it an “A” for effort.