Feeling that the old west has become a dangerous place, law-abiding gunslinger Billy the Kid (Buster Crabbe) fakes a stagecoach robbery and pretends to kidnap the governor’s daughter, all to show him that the west needs more law enforcers. The governor is so impressed by Billy’s ruse that he agrees to stand tough on crime. This upsets Dirk Randall (Glenn Strange, who also played Frankenstein’s monster is some of the later Universal horror films), a businessman who has been funding the criminals in order to make the governor look weak so that Randall could defeat him in the next election.
Randall orders one of his men to pull a gun on Billy while Billy is leaving the local saloon. Billy pulls and fires his own gun in self-defense but it’s Randall who actually kills the man by shooting him in the back and then running off in the confusion. Because the man was shot in the back, Billy is accused of murder, arrested, and sentenced to death in record time. With Billy in jail, it falls to his comic relief sidekick, Fuzzy Jones (Al St. John), to prove that Billy didn’t actually fire the shot that killed the man.
By most accounts, Billy the Kid was a nasty piece of work who would kill anyone who look at him in the wrong way but, in the 30s, the character was the hero of a series of 42 Westerns that all featured him as a hero and a valued member of the community. (Originally, Bob Steele played Billy. Buster Crabbe took over the role with the seventh film.) Western Cyclone was the 17th Billy the Kid film and, as long as you’re not a stickler for historical accuracy, it’s an entertaining B-western. The plot is formulaic but Crabbe was a good hero, Strange was a diabolical villain, and, for once, Al St. John got to play an important role in resolving the film’s story. Fuzzy Jones did some impressive detective work. The real Billy the Kid probably could have used someone like Fuzzy in his corner.
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