John Travers is a U.S. marshal who, along with his Indian assistant Yak, are looking for some wanted criminals somewhere in the untamed West. Posing as the Lone Rider, Travers appears to rob a stagecoach;however, he is only setting up a sting where he can prevent the actual robbery and capture a pair of highwaymen. In the process he also rescues the attractive young female occupant of the stagecoach, who happens to be the niece of a town leader. When Travers arrives in town with the injured stage driver and the young lady, the citizens come out to see what is happening. In the group is Al Davis, who has that same day just been named the new sheriff of the town. While the townfolks are talking to Travers a sniper kills Davis on the spot. Travers does not reveal he is a U.S. marshal, however he volunteers to be their sheriff.
Travers rides out to recover the money he "stole" earlier. Meanwhile an unseen bad guy known as the Shadow gives his henchmen orders from a secret room, communicating through a hole in the wall disguised as a safe. They are assigned to do away with Sheriff Travers. Between the hero and his sidekick Yak, they keep one step ahead of the bad guys, repeatedly foiling their attempts to murder our lawman. Travers and Yak eventually locate a mountain hideout that contains numerous hardened fugitives whose activities are orchestrated by the Shadow.
The Shadow is Matt Matlock, a town leader who all believe to be a decent person. In fact he is not even really Matt Matlock, but a criminal who sometime recently killed a rancher named Matt Matlock and assumed his identity. Matlock's niece Anita, the girl rescued earlier in the stagecoach, whose father was Matt Matlock's brother and co-owner of the ranch, came to town to see the ranch she inherited a 50% share in after her father's death. Unbeknownst to her, her father was also killed by the Shadow. Having never seen her uncle she does not know the man she is staying with is a criminal. Shadow/Matlock tries to carry out the charade of kindly uncle, but at the same time arranges some disturbances at night, such as a fiendish face at the window and a man in a bear costume, to scare away Miss Matlock. She doesn't scare easily, though, and takes a potshot at the prowlers, quickly ending their pranks.
Travers and Yak discover the secret room from which the Shadow conducts his business in town, as well as a hollowed out tree stump that served as the hideout for the earlier sniper. This greatly helps them bring their investigation to the point where Travers reveals who he really is, and swears in a bunch of local ranchers as deputies to form a legal posse and go after the Shadow gang. Meanwhile Matlock's old cook tells Anita that the man she thinks is her uncle is a murderous imposter. She rides off toward town to break the news, but is captured by the gang on the way. The gang has acquired a machine gun, and they all head out to do away with Travers and his do-gooders. A prolonged chase and shootout ensues. The surviving members of the Shadow gang are all justly captured.
Running Time: 53 Minutes
MPAA Ratings: Passed
An undercover federal marshal (John Wayne) solves a mystery involving a feared outlaw known only as “The Shadow”.
The Star Packer is a bit of a deviation from the standard John Wayne western of the time. Along with the usual stunts and fisticuffs, writer/director Robert N. Bradbury mixes in some mystery elements that help keep things fresh. Indeed the story could have just as easily worked in a big city as opposed to the old west, but either way the result is entertaining.
While the stunts and fight scenes belie the film’s shoestring budget, the casting of Yakima Canutt as Wayne’s Indian Sidekick seems almost comical (Wayne even calls him Yak). Still, as far as Wayne’s early westerns go, this one stands out.
Mystery, excitement, big shootouts, and a hard riding hero. So what else could a grown-up kid ask for. Yeah, I know it's gotta have a girl, but at least Wayne doesn't have to kiss her-- what mush! Doug Doepke, Claremont, USA
The Duke and his entourage provide plenty of ironic laughs but, if you want to take the movie at face value, it is quite enjoyable. The good guys win, the bad guys get their comeuppance, the Duke gets his gal and Yakima Canutt shows his tricks all in a setting that engrossed generations of schoolboys over most of the 20th century. John Redington, Ireland
Robert N. Bradbury
Robert N. Bradbury
George 'Gabby' Hayes
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