Riders of Death Valley (1941)

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The Saturday matinee crowd got two cowboy stars for the price of one in this lavishly budgeted western serial starring former singing cowboy Dick Foran and Buck Jones. The latter contributed deadpan humor to the proceedings, making Jones perhaps the highest paid B-western comedy relief in history. The two heroes defend the Death Valley borax miners from an outlaw gang headed by Wolf Reade. An extraordinarily strong cast -- for a serial, at least -- supported the stars, headed by Charles Bickford as Reade, Leo Carillo, Lon Chaney, Jr., and silent screen star Monte Blue. Leading lady Jeanne Kelly later changed her name to Jean Brooks and starred in the atmospheric RKO thriller The Seventh Victim (1943). Universal claimed to have spent $1 million on this serial and made sure to get their money's worth by endlessly recycling the action footage in serials and B-westerns for years to come.

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