The first few minutes are narrated by Deputy Marshal Jim Burke (Wayne Morris), which gives the film the feel of a Western law enforcement procedural. It's an odd blend of "docu-cop" and 1880s Western, as Burke hunts down the three surviving men who robbed the Bank of Flagstaff. His trail leads to a small town and the sister (Virginia Grey) of a fourth robber who died after breaking out of jail.
I approached the film with goodwill due to the lead actors, Morris and Grey, and while the movie did not prove to be noteworthy, it was watchable light entertainment which moved along at a good pace. It's a pleasant time-passer for fans of "B" Westerns, but not much more than that, and surely some of the lines must have been hokey even in 1953.
I did also feel that Morris's performance veered back and forth between appearing comfortable and awkward as a lawman in the Old West; that clash was, oddly enough, part of what made him interesting to watch. Morris was a longtime pro but I could never quite figure out if he fit in a Western movie, though he made a number of them in the '50s. A better script with more character shadings doubtless would have helped; the story is acceptable but quite by-the-numbers.
Grey's role was a bit of a surprise, playing a no-good, exceptionally mercenary woman. It's not a very appealing character for such a likeable actress, but Grey does well in the part. She and Morris had previously costarred in DESERT PURSUIT (1952).
I felt that it was useful to see this film to appreciate the relative quality of the "B" Westerns starring actors such as George O'Brien and Tim Holt. The Holt movies, for example, were sometimes miniature Western works of art in terms of their visual quality, beautifully shot by people like J. Roy Hunt and Nicholas Musuraca.
THE FIGHTING LAWMAN is partly set in Flagstaff but the locations look very Southern California, and indeed, IMDb indicates the film was made at Corriganville in Simi Valley.
This film was directed by Thomas Carr. The supporting cast includes John Kellogg, Harry Lauter, John Pickard, Denver Pyle, and Rick Vallin. Longtime Western character actor Myron Healey plays a sheriff who joins forces with Jim. The film runs 72 minutes.
THE FIGHTING LAWMAN is part of a Wayne Morris Double Feature released by the Warner Archive. The print is quite nice, although the film itself has an unremarkable "TV Western" type appearance, shot by Gilbert Warrenton. Warner Archive also gets kudos for the very appealing box art. What a long way the Archive has come from the plain blue cases of its first year!
The other film on the "twofer" disc is THE MARKSMAN (1953), costarring Elena Verdugo and character actor favorite Frank Ferguson.