Returning home from the Civil War, Johnny Rush (John Agar) discovers that his family’s land has been confiscated by corrupt rancher Hal Brecker (Earle Lyon, who co-wrote the script). With the aid of corrupt Sheriff Baker (played by Richard Bartlett, who also directed the film), Brecker has taken over the entire town. Honest ranchers like Charley Bonesteel (Douglas Fowley) are giving up their land and heading out of town. Meanwhile, Dan Wells (Edgar Buchanan) has managed to hold onto his land by offering up his daughter, Pat (Margia Dean), as Brecker’s bride. Since Johnny’s in love with Pat, he’s not happy about this development.
Johnny wants to take on Brecker but the local bartender, Dandy Don (Wayne Morris), talks him out of it. Realizing that there’s nothing he can do alone, Johnny tries to leave town but, as he rides out, he’s ambushed by Baker. Though Johnny survives the ambush, his shooting hand is injured. Fortunately, Indian Chief Gonaga (Ian MacDonald, the script’s other writer) and Charley are on hand to teach Johnny how to fight with a bow and arrow. Johnny goes on to become an old west Robin Hood, using his newly learned archery skills to fight the greedy land grabbers and protect the poor land-owners.
The Lonesome Trail is a low-budget, grade Z western that is slightly saved by the novelty of seeing John Agar fighting off the bad guys with a bow and arrow. The film is clearly set up to be a western version of the Robin Hood saga, complete with a corrupt sheriff, a greedy landlord, and an archer who has just returned from war. Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland could have really made something out of this story back in 1938. Unfortunately, to say that John Agar is no Errol Flynn is putting it lightly. There’s nothing “merry” about John Agar’s performance. He looks genuinely miserable in the majority of this scenes. Agar is just as stiff as usual but the bow and arrow is just enough of a twist to make his confrontations with Brecker’s men more interesting than the typical gunfights that usually wrapped these films up. Otherwise, this is another forgettable Robert Lippert-produced western, though old pro Edgar Buchanan does give a good performance as a man desperate enough to offer up his daughter in order to keep his land.