Masterson of Kansas

Nicholas Chennault ~ July 16, 2014

Masterson of Kansas—George Montgomery, Nancy Gates, Bruce Cowling, James Griffith, William Henry, Jay Silverheels, John Maxwell (1954; Dir: William Castle)


Badly written and clunkily directed, this B-movie western takes such historical figures as Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday and does completely fictional things.  The best acting here is done by James Griffith as Doc Holliday, but that’s always a juicy role.  As in Frontier Marshal and My Darling Clementine, Doc Holliday is depicted as a medical doctor (patching up a wounded Virgil Earp), instead of the dentist he was.  George Montgomery as the titlular Bat Masterson is so stiff you can see why he eventually gave up acting for furniture design.  Bruce Cowling (the cuckolded Irish trooper in Ambush) is a curiously ineffective Wyatt Earp.  Everybody in this movie wears two guns in 1950s-style rigs. The cast now seems lacking in star power.

A supposed enmity between Bat Masterson, the sheriff of Dodge City, and Doc Holliday is the background for a plot to lynch Indian sympathizer Amos Merrick (John Maxwell) so that white cattlemen can get Indian land.  Nancy Gates (the rescued wife in Comanche Station) plays Merrick’s daughter Amy, the romantic interest for Masterson, but she seems largely extraneous.  She persuades Doc, despite his feud with Masterson, to help in the search for Clay Bennett, who testified that he saw the murder.  Jay Silverheels shows up as Yellow Hawk, chief of the Comanches (or Kiowas or southern Cheyennes).  William Henry is Charlie Fry, the nefarious cattleman behind the lynching and all the bad goings-on.


In the end, it’s Masterson, Wyatt and Doc striding down the main street of Hays City, shooting it out with a horde of gunmen.  None of it makes a great deal of sense, and there’s a lot of improbable shooting.  Director William Castle was better known for low-budget horror pictures, but he made his share of westerns as well, none of which are particularly notable.  In color, at just 73 minutes.

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