HAUNTED RANCH (1943)
Article 5123 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Robert Emmett Tansey
Featuring John ‘Dusty’ King, David Sharpe, Max Terhune
What it is: Weird Western
When a bank robber dies without revealing the location of a stash of gold bullion, the other members of his gang fake a haunting of his ranch to drive people away while they search. Can the Range Busters solve this case?
It’s nice to get back to the black-and-white era every once in a while and watch something like this. It’s the twentieth picture in the Range Busters series, and the haunting of the ranch is the obvious fantastic content, though we find out at the outset that the haunting is being faked. Oddly enough, there are also two other touches of fantastic content here. One is in the realm of gadgetry with an organ that is also a combination safe, with the choice of stops serving as the key to unlock it. The other is that Elmer, Max Terhune’s ventriloquist dummy, does a mind-reading act. The movie itself isn’t particularly good, but it is fitfully entertaining. There’s a couple of odd touches here; I can’t help but notice that the heroes are basically playing themselves; their character names are the same as their real ones. The second is that there is an odd transition in the middle of the movie where one of the Range Busters leaves to join the military (as he did in real life), and is replaced in midstream by Rex Lease. There’s a song sung by John ‘Dusty’ King, and the obligatory scared black servant.