Tombstone Canyon (1932)

Haunted House meets Mystery meets Western

I love watching these films from the early thirties. Rarely are they good in the way that I need as a modern viewer. But the story is not the one the movie directly delivers, but the larger story of movies finding themselves after the disruptive introduction of sound.

They just didn’t know what would work, so they tried everything. Sometimes they invented, and that is very cool when you can find the first glimmer of some now mainstream stroke.

What we have here is one third mystery of the old school. A man does not know who he is we have to find out after the one who could reveal all is murdered.

We have a third that is haunted house. This was already a well established genre. Here we have the phantom. He mysteriously kills and disappears as if a ghost. He has a terrifying call that usually brings death. He is dressed in black and covers his face with his cape, even — especially — when it is just us about. We find he has a horribly disfigured face… as disfigured as simple makeup could arrange anyway. We see comic fear of this ghost. It has everything a haunted house movie does except the house which is replaced here by the supposedly spooky Tombstone Canyon (where no one goes),

And a third is good old western, with good and bad ranchers. The good rancher is Judge Lee with a pretty cowgirl daughter who falls for our cowboy. In what seems like two days, they are engaged. A wise sheriff, rough town. Fights at cliff edge. Lots of galloping.

What a hodgepodge. What confusion! It is clear that this was a disposable experiment like hundreds of others, even thousands from the era.

Posted in 2015

Ted’s Evaluation — 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.


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