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  Terror of Tiny Town, The Pick On Someone Your Own Size
Year: 1938
Director: Sam Newfield
Stars: Billy Curtis, Yvonne Moray, Little Billy, Billy Platt, John Bambury, Joseph Herbst, Charles Becker, Nita Krebs
Genre: Western, Musical, Comedy, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: The cattle of both the Preston and Lawson ranches are mysteriously disappearing, and each blames the other for the rustling. Buck Lawson (Billy Curtis), son of the head of the Lawson family, is out riding on the ranch one day when he spots smoke coming from behind some trees; investigating, he discovers a recently put out fire, and a branding iron of the Preston ranch. Little does he know that the iron has been placed there by Bat Haines (Little Billy), who is whipping up conflict between the two families so that he can move in and take all of their cattle. Will Buck save the day?

Of the hundreds of low budget, B-movie westerns that were made in the first half of the twentieth century, The Terror of Tiny Town must be one of the weirdest, at least in concept. Made as a showcase for producer Jed Buell's troupe of midgets, it was written by Fred Myton, and opens with a normal-size man at the microphone introducing the film as a "novelty picture". Then Billy Curtis and Little Billy saunter on, only to start a fight, and presumably to let us see how short they are compared to the compere.

Depsite the main selling point being the small stature of its cast, the script makes surprisingly little of it, so to speak. If filmed with people of ordinary height, it would be indistinguishable from the greater percentage of the other westerns made about this time. There's feuding, romance, a bar room with gambling and a resident music hall act, the baddie in a black hat and the goodie in a white hat, gunfights, and Curtis is made up as a miniature singing cowboy (although he's obviously dubbed).

Some indications of the cast's height do appear. The sets are normal sized, just maybe not so much that you'd notice, except for the swinging saloon doors that the cowboys walk under, and the midgets ride Shetland ponies. Once in a while there will be a size-ist joke, such as the band's double bass needing two people to play it, or the thirsty barman drinking beer out of a huge glass. Uninspiring comedy scenes include the chef, Otto (Charles Becker), chasing a duck around, or a singalong that includes a penguin for no apparent reason, but mostly this is played straight, unless you find the idea of short people inherently funny.

What novelty there is wears off pretty swiftly. Buck and Preston's hungry niece Nancy (Yvonne Moray) fall in love, which threatens to bring the two clans together, but Haines puts a stop to that with a cold-blooded murder. This might have been fairly exciting in other hands, but the little people are terrible actors, and the whole production looks amatuerish in the extreme. You leave it wondering why they bothered to cast midgets at all, you couldn't even say they were being exploited, it's just another run of the mill western with the cast all looking pretty much the same size. Maybe pitting the little guys against tall villains would have been a better idea?
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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