This is the second "Johnny Mack" Western I've reviewed from the set, and while not quite as strong as MAN FROM SONORA (1951), I enjoyed OKLAHOMA JUSTICE quite well. The Brown Westerns are pleasingly made, sturdy Western entertainment, and I look forward to seeing more.
A trio of bad guys have been holding up banks, and Sheriff Barnes (Kenne Duncan) and stage employee Jimmy (James "Jimmy" Ellison) sit down to concoct a plan to deal with it. Next thing we know, our hero Johnny Mack Brown shows up in town and robs the bank. This is more than a little confusing for a couple of minutes, until the viewer eventually realizes it's part of an elaborate undercover ruse so that Johnny Mack can ingratiate himself with the bad guys.
The ring is headed by Ma Posey (Barbara Allen, also known as Barbara Woodell), who acts sweet as can be to the sheriff, trying to pump him for information, but in reality she's quite nasty, barking out orders for robberies -- and worse. Allen played Zee James in Samuel Fuller's I SHOT JESSE JAMES (1949), and she reprised that role in THE GREAT JESSE JAMES RAID (1953). She passed on in 1997.
The jig is nearly up when Goldie (Phyllis Coates) realizes that it was Johnny Mack who robbed the bank and "killed" her fiance, the teller (Bruce Edwards). One of the only problems with the plot is Goldie's initial calm demeanor over the death of the man she loves, but she later proves to be quite resourceful. As was the case in MAN FROM SONORA, Coates brings an energetic intelligence to her part.
James Ellison, of so many RKO films of the late '30s and early '40s, makes a lively sidekick for Johnny Mack. I have a VCI set of Westerns Ellison made with Julie Adams which I look forward to watching. According to IMDb, when "B" Westerns faded out Ellison had a very successful second career in real estate and home construction, and Ellison Drive in Beverly Hills was named in his honor. A Drifting Cowboy has photos from several of Ellison's Westerns.
Lyle Talbot, who played the sheriff in MAN FROM SONORA (1951), turns up here as the town doctor. I enjoy having faces such as Talbot's pop in for a few minutes. A quick glance at Talbot's credits shows he played supporting roles in many other Monogram Westerns of the era.
Some interesting notes on OKLAHOMA JUSTICE: There's a curious moment in the opening scene when one of the bank robbers is clearly having trouble getting on a spooked horse, but valiantly keeps going so as not to ruin the shot, finally getting into the saddle at the last moment. I rewound to watch it a second time!
As with MAN FROM SONORA, many of the scenes have a bit of a haze and seem to have been shot in the early morning hours; maybe the crew was shooting during California's perennial morning "June gloom"!
The only real issue with this 56-minute film, as a reviewer at IMDb correctly notes, is that it is padded with way too many shots of people racing around on horseback. It got to the point where I hit fast-forward a couple times, seeing no need to keep watching galloping horses at normal viewing speed!
Lewis D. Collins and shot by Ernest Miller. The supporting cast includes Lane Bradford, I. Stanford Jolley, and Marshall Reed.
The OKLAHOMA JUSTICE print looks great, and it also has excellent sound quality; those gunshots really pop in the final shooting matches. It's such a pleasure to have a film like this so nicely preserved thanks to the Warner Archive. There are no extras.
Previous films reviewed from this set: Johnny Mack Brown in MAN FROM SONORA (1951) and Rod Cameron in CAVALRY SCOUT (1951).
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.