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    . . . and it's gooooooooooooooooood!
    Review coming soon!
    Available for order right now! Details HERE.

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    A couple of weeks back, Mr. Richard Robinson (of Broken Bullhorn fame) and I toured a few Portland area bookstores. He came away with two fistfuls of Perry Mason paperbacks, and I scored this hardcover - No Quarter.

    The title caught my eye, as did the Lone Star flag on the spine, because I knew it would be Alamo-related. What I didn’t expect was for it be by Nels Leroy Jorgensen, one of Joe Shaw’s Black Mask boys, and a friend of Dashiell Hammett.

    Reading The Thin Man (again) recently, I came across this passage (and no, sorry, it’s not the famous one about Nick’s erection). Nick’s sort-of client, Dorothy Wynant says, “I don’t suppose you know Jorgensen.” “I know a Nels Jorgensen,” says Nick. To which Dorothy replies, “Some people have all the luck.” This is the only time I’ve spotted Hammett paying tribute to one of writer friends.

    Jorgensen, I’m sad to say is the Forgotten Man of Black Mask. Despite making 40 appearances in the magazine, 32 of them featuring a cool gambler hero called Black Burton, he’s been consistently ignored by editors of hardboiled anthologies. Why? Beats me. Stylistically, I’d rate him just behind Frederick Nebel, on a par with Raoul Whitfield, and certainly ahead of George Harmon Coxe.

    Black Burton made his first appearance in 1925, before Shaw took the helm, and his last in 1938, after Shaw was gone. What Burton did for the next ten years I don’t know, but I know he was still gambling in 1948, when he made at least two appearances in Black Book Detective.

    Like many of his peers, Jorgensen wrote just about any kind of story he could sell. Some of the non-Burton stories in Black Mask were westerns, and he continued writing for western pulps into the late ‘40s, particularly for the Thrilling Publications line. But along with the mystery and western mags, he also wrote for (among others) Boy’s Life, Danger Trail, Top-Notch, Argosy, Pirate Stories, Munsey’s, Smart Set, NorthWest Stories, Battle Birds, Love Story and American Magazine.

    His career as a novelist is rather spotty. The earliest I’ve found reference to is Three Bad Men (1917) a novelization of the John Ford film, based on a novel by another guy. A (probable) juvenile called The Balloon Boys appeared in 1926, as did a collaboration with Linton Wells called Jumping Meridians. Breed of Gun Smoke, another western, was published by Chelsea House in 1930 and reprinted elsewhere. Then El Coronel, A Romance of Mexico in 1935, and The Laughing Caballero in 1936. After that, I’ve found nothing until 1954, the year of No Quarter, and a juvenile baseball book called Dave Palmer’s Diamond Mystery. Another juvenile, Smoke Jumpers, appeared around this time or shortly after. And that’s it. No mysteries. If anyone knows of other novels, I’d sure like to hear about them.

    As for No Quarter, it follows the pattern of many other novels set during the Texas Revolution, in which the hero struggles and fails to bring aid to the heroes of the Alamo. In this one, Nicholas Wayne is recruited by Jim Bowie to procure and deliver arms and medical supplies to Bexar (San Antonio), where Bowie expects trouble from the Army of Mexico. Wayne spends the rest of the book roaming between New Orleans, Galveston and the wilds of Texas, struggling mightily to complete his mission. (SPOILER ARERT!) Contrary to the cover illo, Wayne does not arrive at the Alamo after the battle and see dead bodies lying around. He learns that the battle is over and sees that the supplies get to San Jacinto instead, where they'll help Sam Houston win the battle and war. (END OF ALERT)

    Jorgensen’s style here is lean and tough, though maybe a shade less lean and tough than the Black Burton stuff I’ve read in Black Mask. I’m thinking what the world needs now is a book called The Complete Adventures of Black Burton. Hear that, you reprinters?

    Want a sample of Jorgensen's mystery writing? There's a Detective Fiction Weekly story you can read online right HERE

    More Forgotten Books at pattinase!.

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    More Weirdness on the way.
    The first 15 covers are on display HERE.

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    To. Be. Continued!

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    You’ve probably seen this one, or at least pieces of it. But have you seen it in color? I had no idea it existed until I spotted this DVD at the library. I still prefer the black and white version (for me, the cheesy color destroys the illusion) but it’s still mighty interesting.

    You be the judge. The color version (all 15 minutes of it) is presented below, courtesy of YouTube, and the black and white version is easily found there too.

    A Trip to the Moon was released by Georges Melies - probably in black and white - way back in 1902, and hailed as the first science fiction film. It was also most likely the first film to tell a narrative story, despite that honor being claimed by The Great Train Robbery, released in 1903.

    Hats off to the brave travelers.

    Locked and loaded.

    Between 1896 and 1913, Melies produced over 500 films. All were shot in black and white, and coloring them was a laborious process. Melies used a company employing 300 women to squint and apply paint to the film, frame by tiny frame. For a film like A Trip to the Moon, which had somewhere in the neighborhood of 13,000 frames, that took a long time. And all that work produced only one print.

    At some point, obviously, this was done to A Trip to the Moon, but it’s existence was only dreamed of until 1993, when a color print finally surfaced. It was in such bad shape that it had to wait eight years for technology to reach the point where restoration could begin. Even then, the work had to be done frame-by-frame, with missing pieces colored and added from black and white prints, and took another ten years to complete. The restored version made it’s debut at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, with a new soundtrack by Air.


    Nighttime on the moon.

    First contact.

    The DVD release also features a documentary on Melies life and work. He was, it appears, the first to realize the possibilities of special effects, and clips from many amazing short films are included. There are also clips from an episode of the HBO documentary From Earth to the Moon, in which Tom Hanks portrays Melies at work on A Trip to the Moon.

    Trapped by the Martians, some of whom look like college kids.

    Luckily, the Martians prove fragile. Hit 'em and they explode.

    Melies own story was not so happy. When he released the film in 1902, it was immediately pirated and shown in the U.S. and other countries without him getting a dime. And in 1908, the U.S. studio Pathe made an unauthorized remake called An Excursion to the Moon. Then live action came into vogue, and audiences lost interest in Melies’ studio-bound fantasies. He closed up shop for good in 1913.

    According to the documentary, Melies eventually burned his own copies of 500+ films, though other sources say the French Army melted many of them down to use the raw materials for - among other things - heels for soldiers’ boots. To date only about 200 of his films have been recovered.

    The Martians bid their guests an angry adieu.

    The heroes return. Much revelry ensues.

    More Overlooked Films, and more revelry, at SWEET FREEDOM.

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    And here's a tip for you western fans:
    Shooter's Cross, the first book in the great Rancho Diablo series,
    will be FREE for Kindle this Saturday and Sunday. Mark you calendars!

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    Back in 1984, in the throes of Wolfemania, I bought a copy of the Penzler Books edition of this novel, which was apparently the first book edition. That surprised me, given Stout’s stature and popularity. For one reason or another, I never got around to reading it - until now. And I’m no longer surprised. This is a book the world could do without.

    To be fair, this thing first appeared in The All-Story way back in 1914, when Stout was in his twenties, and for a guy in his twenties, I suppose it isn’t horrible. It’s simply tedious. (Though you wouldn't know it from the cover at right - with all that conveniently flowing hair - the female lead goes topless for most of the story. It doesn't help.)

    The book begins with promise. Wealthy New York socialite Paul Lamar learns that his wastrel brother Harry has just lost $90,000 in a poker game. Harry refuses to let it go, so Paul takes his place at the table and promptly wins it back. He then tells Harry he’s leaving him to his own devices, and sets off to tour Europe. While abroad, he catches sight of one of the most beautiful (and dangerous) women alive, a fun-loving seductress named Desiree La Mire. Warned to avoid this jezebel at all costs, he quite naturally winds up on the same ship back to the States, and they become somewhat well acquainted. But unlike every other man on the planet, he manages to resist her charms.

    Back in New York, Desiree is the toast of the town, and wastrel brother Harry insists on meeting her. And of course he falls hard, so hard that he soon leaves town, refusing to tell Paul where he’s going. When Paul discovers that Desiree is gone, too, he reneges on his promise to let Harry lead his own life and tracks them to Denver. There, high in the Rockies, Desiree admits that Harry is merely a plaything. The man she really loves is Paul himself. But man of steel that he is, Paul still resists.

    From there, the love triangle moves on the San Francisco, where they take ship to South America, always following the whims of the fickle Desiree. At this point, we’re about 20% into the story. The young Stout’s prose, while nothing like the Wolfe stuff to come, is smooth and consistently interesting, and I’m anticipating a good read.

    Sadly, that’s where the good read ended. While climbing the Andes, a guide tells the travelers the legend of a tribe of Incas who eluded the Spanish by ducking into a cavern, taking all their gold with them. Many fortune hunters have since entered the cavern in search of the treasure, but none ever returned. So naturally, Desiree dashes right in. And naturally, Paul and Harry follow.

    The rest of the long, long, LONG story takes place - you guessed it - under the Andes. We’ve now left the real world and entered H. Rider Haggard/Edgar Rice Burroughs territory. Unfortunately (at least for purposes of this story), Stout was not Haggard or Burroughs. Our travelers stumble, stagger and crawl around in the dark. They’re captured by the subhuman specimens of a Lost Race. They escape, stumble around some more, are recaptured, kill hundreds of the little boogers, escape, are recaptured, kill hundreds more, escape, are recaptured, kill some more, escape, survive an encounter with a Lovecraft-style Lurker in the Dark, are recaptured, kill more subhuman boogers, and so on, and so on. Why? Because The All-Story paid by the word. The longer the story dragged on, the more they paid.

    There are a couple of good lines. At one point, the narrator says of the subhumans, "They ate death like candy." At another, Harry says, "Will it never end?" My sentiments exactly.

    Ho-hum. I’m forced to admit this is one of the few books I grew so weary of that I resorted to skimming. At the end I resumed reading, hoping for a satisfying conclusion. No such luck. The climax fizzled and went out. I went away feeling I’d wasted my time - and my hard-earned 1984 dollars, too.

    Thankfully, just at that moment of deepest despair, Skull Island arrived in the mail. This new novel - in which Doc Savage meets King Kong - is Will Murray’s best yet, and that’s saying something. My faith in adventure fiction is restored!

    More Forgotten Books (hopefully worth remembering) at pattinase.

    P.S. If I've failed to dissuade you from venturing Under the Andes, the novel is old enough to be free for Kindle. There's also a site where you can listen to a free audio version. That's HERE.

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    Shooter's Cross, the first book in the great Rancho Diablo series is free today and tomorrow for Kindle, prompting this this encore review. To snag your copy, click the Amazon box below.

    Now, on with the review:

    Bottom Line first: I enjoyed the hell out of this book.

    I guess I’m not really surprised, it’s just that I didn’t know what to expect. And whatever those nebulous expectations were, Shooter’s Cross exceeded them by a country mile.

    I knew James Reasoner and Bill Crider were involved in this project, and knew they’d written books 2 and 3 in the series, respectively. I’ve read a good number of books by both those gents, and they’ve always delivered the goods. But the author of this inaugural entry, Mel Odom, was a mystery to me.

    No more! Mel delivers, too, introducing the Rancho Diablo saga in grand fashion. Shooter’s Cross is sort of an origin story, in which nail-tough Army scout Sam Blaylock lays eyes on Rancho Diablo and never looks back. The locals, residents of the nearby town of Shooter’s Cross, think the place is haunted, but Sam thinks it’s the perfect place to make a home for his friends and family.

    In this one, we meet two of Sam’s old friends: Duane Beatty, a stalwart Cajun with a knack for engineering, and Michael Tucker, a wizard with a six-gun. And two new ones: An aptly-named old coot called Gabby (think Hayes) and a young whippersnapper from the town named Randy. These four appear slated to be regulars in the series, and offer many directions for future storylines.

    Meanwhile, back in Shooter’s Cross, there’s stern-but-fair Marshal Tolliver, who seems destined to be strong ally, and newspaperman/gambler Mitch McCarthy, a capable adversary. With these members of the cast in place, we’re ready for the arrival of Sam’s wife and kids in the next installment.

    The story is compelling, the prose smooth and the dialogue tight. It all adds up to a great read, and the next two books, by Misters Reasoner and Crider, are equally fine. Check 'em out!

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    Much more Spider on the way.
    To see the first six covers, click HERE.

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    Ever wonder, while watching Justified, what was going on in Harlan Country, Tennessee back in the '50s? Well, wonder no more. All you have to do is take a squint at Thunder Road. If this movie is to be believed, the forebears of those Justified hillbillies were making enough moonshine to service the entire South, and fearless guys like Robert Mitchum were risking their hides to get it to market.

    I found this to be a mighty interesting film, on several levels. Aside from the Elmore Leonard connection, there's the song, "The Ballad of Thunder Road." I've heard it many times over the past fifty-odd years (and no, I'm not talking about that pale Springsteen rip-off), so it was fun to hear it done fast, slow, frantic and subdued at various times throughout the movie. (I invite you start the song now, so you can listen to it while perusing the rest of this review.)

    Next up, there's Robert Mitchum, ultra-tough and ultra-cool, at exactly the age he should have been when  playing Philip Marlowe. The Italian poster above captures some of that cool, while the U.S. poster (at bottom) is flat out ridiculous. It makes Mitchum look like he's about to crap his pants, an expression he never wears in the film. To be fair, he never leans out the passenger window pointing a gun, either, but that poster still works.

    Then we have the TV cowboys. Gene Barry was just about to begin his four-year run as Bat Masterson, and Peter Breck would soon star in Black Saddle, then pop up all over the West before settling in The Big Valley. And Trevor Bardette, who plays Mitchum's father, guest-starred in just about every TV western you could name. Another familiar TV face, from Dark Shadows and dozens of later shows, is Mitch Ryan.

    If that ain't enough, we get a couple of songs and some passable acting from Louis Prima's favorite chanteuse, Keely Smith. She managed to sing "Bill Bailey" and make me like it, and that's saying something.

    Mitchum and Keely Smith.

    Thunder Road is a Robert Mitchum vehicle from start to finish. He not only starred, but wrote the original story, produced the film, cast his oldest son James as his brother, and released a single of the song.

    Mitchum, as mentioned, plays a whiskey runner with hidden tanks built into this souped-up Fords to transport the hooch. In this movie, the runners (the outlaws) drive Fords, while the Feds (the establishment)  drive Chevies.

    Mitchum's character is descended from a noble line of distillers, stretching clear back to Ireland. At one point his father says they've been making whiskey in Harlan County for 250 years. To these men, moonshine represents freedom.

    The villain of the piece is Carl Kogan, played by Jacques Aubuchon, a Dixie Mafia-type trying to consolidate all the whiskey-running in the South. He's the one Gene Barry (of the Alcohol and Tobacco Division of the IRS) is after, and Mitchum is the only man standing in Kogan's way. One of the best scenes is near the end, when one of Kogan's thugs tries to run Mitchum off the road. As they roar side-by-side down the highway, Mitchum casually flicks a lighted cigarette into the other guy's face, causing him to crash and burn.

    Frisked by Barry? No problem.

    Mitchum's son James, who is "introduced" in this film (though it's actually his second) is not a great actor, but is thoroughly believable as his younger brother - a loyal but dumb cluck whose mistakes send Mitchum thundering down the road for the last time.

    Mitchum and son.

    Gotta say I enjoyed every minute of this one. Why not make some popcorn, take your shoes off and watch it right here?

    More Overlooked Films at SWEET FREEDOM.

    Sheesh. This poster really sucks.

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  • 03/21/13--05:00: Poster Gallery: Tom Mix
  • 1916



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    You know I like a book when I have five different editions of it. That’s the case with Passing Strange. And this time, I’m pretty sure I liked it even more than my first reading, twenty-some years ago.

    Why? Because I know more about writing than I did then, and have an even greater appreciation for Richard Sale’s talent. This is the kind of book that puts me in the mood to write.

    About his pulp stories, of which there were many hundreds, Sale said the first draft was the last draft. Whether that’s also true of his novels I don’t know, but it wouldn't surprise me much. His pulp dialogue is consistently smooth and entertaining, and this novel - told in first person, so it’s essentially all dialogue - ranks right up with the best of his pulp work. And by that I mean it ranks right up with his Daffy Dill series.

    The narrator here is Peter Merritt, a New York obstetrician who’s summoned to Hollywood by his pregnant sister-in-law. Though he considers himself stuffy compared to movie folk, he shows flashes of Daffy’s wit and classical education, and is far less stuffy than the physician hero of Sale’s first Hollywood novel, Lazarus #7.

    In Hollywood, Merritt meets two of the supporting players from Lazarus #7, the quiet but effective homicide detective Daniel Webster, and slimy but almost likable movie producer Al Roche. A third of the way into the book, the setting moves east, and all the Hollywood players move along with it, bringing their wacky personalities with them. ‘

    As depicted on three of these covers, the trouble starts when someone in surgical garb slips into the operating room and murders the slimeball Hollywood doctor Merritt is assisting. Then a dead baby in a black-trimmed bassinet turns up, and before you know it more bodies start dropping. It’s all passing strange, but all very nicely told.

    I've been slowly reworking my way through all of Sale's novels, of which this is the sixth. Previously reviewed here were Not Too Narrow . . . Not Too Deep (1936), Is A Ship Burning? (1937), The Rogue (pulp serial, 1938), Cardinal Rock (1940) and Lazarus #7 (1942). Still to come are Sailor Take Warning (aka Home is the Hangman) (1942), Destination Unknown (aka Death at Sea) (1943), Benefit Performance (1946), The Oscar (1963), For the President's Eyes Only (1971) and The White Buffalo (1975). Stay tuned.

    Click HERE for earlier Sale reviews, pulp covers, two complete Daffy Dill stories, the first Candid Jones story, a complete episode of Yancy Derringer and other cool Sale stuff.

    Click HERE to visit pattinase, where you'll find links to more Forgotten Books.

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    Wow. This is Doc Savage as you've never seen him.

    Even without King Kong, this would be one of my favorite Doc novels ever - and that's saying something, seeing that almost two hundred of them have gone before.

    The story starts with Kong lying dead at the foot of the Empire State Building. Doc and the gang were not involved in the events that led to the King's demise, but the city asks them to supervise the removal of the oversized remains. For Doc, this is a sad affair, because if he and Kong were - if not friends - at least old acquaintances. And once the body is on its way back to Skull Island, he tells the guys how that first meeting came about.

    In flashback, we're with twenty-year-old Doc as he returns from the war in Europe, where he and his future associates became fast friends. He's summoned by his father, the close-mouthed and mysterious Clark Savage Sr., who desires his presence on a voyage to the South Seas. The trip is well underway before Clark Sr. reveals the true purpose of their mission: They're seeking Doc's grandfather, the near-legendary seafarer Stormalong Savage - who's been missing for years. (In a nice touch, Clark Sr.'s vessel is a black-hulled schooner, much like that piloted by Lester Dent's Black Mask hero, Oscar Sail.)

    This first portion of the voyage, in which Doc and his father get reacquainted - or more properly get truly acquainted for the first time in their lives - is the closest to literary fiction a Doc novel is ever likely to come. This is some fine writing from Will Murray, proving he's capable of far more than simply channeling Lester Dent (which he does, of course, very well). It's no wonder this is the first Doc novel bearing his own name rather than the traditional "Kenneth Robeson."

    But Skull Island is first and foremost an adventure story, and the adventure aspects build gracefully until Doc, his pop, and yep - old Stormalong Savage himself - find themselves battling prehistoric monsters and bloodthirsty Dyak headhunters while trying to evade the king-sized grasp of Kong, the undisputed lord and master of the island.

    Kong, as you might expect, is awesome, and a real badass when riled, but we also see a softer side to his character, and get some insight into what motivates him. This makes his movie fate all the more poignant.

    And then there's Doc, more savage than we've ever seen him. As we know, he's a product of his intensive training, and this novel takes place just after WWI, where he's been trained to kill. And man, did he learn! This is Doc Unleashed, as he snaps  necks, bashes brains, slices off body parts, and mows down the headhunters with his newly invented annihiliator machine pistol (which fires real bullets). The battle scenes are a real kick, and it seems unlikely we'll ever again see the like.

    Along the way, we get tantalizing hints of the wild lives led by Clark Savage Sr. and his pop Stormalong, and even the pre-war life of Clark Savage Jr. The result is a unique and thoroughly satisfying Doc novel. This would seem open up new vistas for Mr. Murray to explore. I can't wait to see what he does next.

    The trade paperback is available NOW, and coming next month is a limited edition hardcover with the wraparound cover shown above. Order info is HERE!

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    Reading and reviewing Will Murray's new Doc masterpiece Skull Island (thats's HERE) put me in a Savage mood. Since that story takes place before the series proper, it just naturally leads into these next three adventures. Maybe it's time to read them again.

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    Bar 20, as any Hopalong Cassidy fan knows, is the name of the ranch where Hoppy and his pals work when they’re not out righting wrongs and punishing evildoers (which seems to be just about never).

    Bar 20 is also the name of the 1906 novel by Clarence E. Mulford that introduced a young redheaded cowboy with a limp, nicknamed "Hopalong" Cassidy, to the world.

    Bar 20 the movie (from 1943) has nothing to do with the ranch, and the Hopalong it portrays has almost nothing in common with the Mulford character. And it should not be confused with the earlier Hoppy films Bar 20 Rides Again (1935), Cassidy of the Bar 20 (1938), Bar 20 Justice (1938), or the Mulford novels Bar 20 Days (1911), The Bar 20 Three (1921), or others bearing the same titles as earlier movies. Are you confused yet?

    Don’t be. All you have to know is that this is one of five Hoppy films featuring both George Reeves and Robert Mitchum in supporting roles, and that makes it mighty dang interesting. It's especially interesting because it’s the only one in which Reeves fills the role of Hoppy’s easily-smitten young sidekick, and the only one (I think) in which both Reeves and Mitchum play good guys.

    The Bar 20 boys meet Mitchum (in the dude suit).

    The fun begins when Hoppy, Andy Clyde and Reeves chase off a gang of stage robbers - but not before the outlaws get away with ten thousand dollars worth of jewels and a wedding dress. The dress and jewels belong to the Sweet Young Thing of the picture, a girl who intends to marry rancher Robert Mitchum.

    Hoppy and the gang just happen to be there because they’ve come to buy a bunch of prized purebred cattle from Sweet Young Thing’s ma. But that plan is bollixed up when Hoppy’s cattle money is stolen.

    Quite naturally, Hoppy and his pards suspect Mitchum of being in cahoots with the outlaws, and Mitchum suspects the same of them. It’s obvious to the viewer that the real bad guy is someone else entirely, but our heroes keep on giving each other the stink eye until the exciting climax.

    Hoppy hog-ties Victor Jory. Could he be the villain?

    Meanwhile, the money and jewels change hands in a fast and furious manner, Reeves is easily smitten by Sweet Young Thing, and Mitchum proves himself easily duped.

    SPOILER ALERT: Mitchum marries Sweet Young Thing.

    Having just seen the ultra-tough, ultra-cool version of Mitchum in Thunder Road, I found this guy pretty bland, but it was still fun to see him interacting with Hoppy and Reeves. Reeves, meantime, reminded me - both in looks and in delivery - of a young Bruce Campbell, which ain’t a bad thing.

    Reeves does his Bruce Campbell impression.

    For the record, the other Hoppy films featuring these two guys were Hoppy Serves a Writ, Border Patrol, Leather Burners and Colt Comrades, all of which were released in 1943.

    What the well-dressed Bar 20 Ranch hand wears.

    Authentic Bar 20 Ranch furniture.

    When I searched Google Images for "Bar 20," this western lass appeared.
    Don't remember her from the movie, but I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

    Find the full slate of Overlooked Films at SWEET FREEDOM.

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