Monday, July 9, 2007

little men....big guns!.

The Terror of Tiny Town (1938)
Dir: Sam Newfield
Songs: Lew Porter.
Starring: Billy Curtis, 'Little' Billy Rhodes, Bill Platt, Nita Krebs.

Cattle from both the Preston and Lawson ranches are disappearing, each family blaming the other for the rustling. All out war between the two clans seems the only outcome.

The heroic white suited Buck Lawson (Billy Curtis) is out riding one morning when he spots a suspicious plume of smoke rising from the trees. Investigating the strange smog, he discovers a smoldering fire and a branding iron from the Preston ranch. Little does he realise that the iron has been placed there by Bat Haines ('Little' Billy Rhodes) the evil bad man who hopes a conflict between the two families will leave him with control of the cattle.....To make matters worse, Buck and Preston's niece Nancy fall in love, which threatens to bring the two clans together, but Haines puts a stop to that with a cold-blooded murder.....Who will win the battle of the cattle?

Possibly one of the most erm..'unique' motion pictures ever made. The Terror of Tiny Town is your usual of rough cowboys, evil rustlers, sexy showgirls and strong whiskey. The only noticeable difference between this and the hundreds of other westerns made in the 30's is that Tiny Towns entire cast are all under 4 feet tall. It's as if a camera had been placed in my skull to film my dreams.

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Made as a showcase for producer Jed Buell's troupe of midgets (doesn't that mean he owned them? what? did he put them to work in his secret Lemonade mines between jobs?), it opens with a normal-size man at the microphone introducing the film as an "interesting and new form of motion picture entertainment". No shit!

Then Billy Curtis and Little Billy saunter on and start fighting around the compere's knees so we can all get a look at how ickle they are in their cowboy gear.

Even tho' the film's main selling point (the cast's lack of height) should be enough to guarantee a big hit , the producers wisely chose to pack the movie to the brim with action, romance, comedy and songs too with Billy Curtis performing a few memorable 'numbers' (although he's obviously dubbed but the thought was there).

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"They're not children....they're monsters!"

In a fabulous design decision, the sets are all normal sized, so you get the added bonus of seeing midgets walk full sized doors, perched on big stools and walking under swinging saloon doors, they only size compromise being that the midgets all ride Shetland ponies.

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"Aye son!"

The movie is pretty good at playing tricks with the viewers mind too, just when you're so involved in the exciting plot and you've forgotten this is a midget western suddenly it's bought back home to you with a bang as you realise the band's double bass needs two people to play it or the thirsty, slick haired barman takes to drinking his booze from a huge glass. Utter genius.

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"Laugh now!"

Other notable moments of comedy gold include scenes where Otto, the bearded French Chef takes to chasing a duck around and a group singalong that includes a penguin. In fact most of the cast sing and dance their way through The Terror of Tiny Town, especially Tiny Town's sexy saloon singer (Nita Krebs) who delivers fantastic interpretations of Lew Porter's soul searching songs specially written for the movie.

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"...and then I almost fell off mah beanstalk!"

Superbly directed by Sam Newfield (the man behind such hits as Marijuana, the Devil's Weed and Nabonga The Gorilla), produced by midget king Jed Buell, shortly after he parted ways with the Stan Laurel Corporation Stan was probably too tall and freaked him out) and with hit songs (including the toe tapping "Mister Jack and Missus Jill", Hey, Look Out" and Laugh Your Troubles Away") by the unsung genius of 30's musicals Lew Porter, The Terror of Tiny Town has something for the whole family (especially if your family loves midget musicals as mine does).

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"Hows aboout a wee bit
a' mooth shitin' missy?"

Criminally tho' Tiny Town is unavailable on DVD in the UK and very hard to come by in the US as some of the (less enlightened) members of society have deemed to find it offensive. Political correctness gone mad! But, if like me you're a dedicated fan (or just curious) it is possible to obtain this masterpiece of American cinema.....go on, go find'll be glad that you did!

1 comment:

AL said...