Western Wednesdays: The Apache Kid’s Escape (1930)

The Apache Kid [Jack Perrin] is being pursued by the law when he catches up with his old partner, Buck Harris [Bud Osborne], and tells him that he wants to give up his life of crime. He receives a letter from his sister, Jean, asking him to return home to help care for their ailing mother. The Kid and Buck engage in a fistfight and the Kid takes off. The Sheriff catches up with Harris, who agrees to assist the sheriff track down Apache. The kid rides at breakneck speed, right off a cliff in to a massive body of water.

A few months later, the Kid re-emerges on Larry Wilson’s [Horace Carpenter] cattle ranch as a ranch-hand going by the name of Jim. He and fellow ranch-hand Ted [Fred Church] discuss Ted’s plan to marry Jane Wilson [Josephine Hill]. Meanwhile, Ted’s creepy bank owner father Frank [Henry Roquemore] advances upon Jane, but Jane wants no part of the sleazy fellow and quickly rides out of town back to her father’s ranch. Frank meets up with Larry Wilson and lies through his teeth, telling Wilson that Ted isn’t his son, which leads Wilson to decline Ted’s offer of marriage to his daughter. Furthermore, Frank offers to erase Wilson’s debts from the books as long as he gets to marry Jane.

The local deputy sheriff [Glenn Strange] reports to Frank Conway that a stagecoach holding a large bulk of his money was held up and that the perpetrator was his son Ted posing as the Apache Kid. As a result, Ted is arrested and placed in custody. Jim visits Ted in jail, where Ted reveals that he did in fact steal from the stagecoach. Jim goes in search of the stolen money and finds it in an oak tree. Jim reclaims his identity as the Apache Kid and returns the money to Conway, calling him a “Potbellied cradle snatcher” in the process. Ted is freed.

The Apache Kid rides out of town and past Buck Harris who starts shooting at the Kid, they engage in another scuffle, this time on a set of tracks with an oncoming train approaching. They continue their fight until Buck falls off the side of a mountain. The Kid quickly switches clothes with Buck as the sheriff arrives. Jim proceeds to convince the sheriff that Buck was the Kid.

Jim then bids the Wilsons goodbye, kissing Jane’s much younger sister [Virginia Ashcroft] on the mouth before riding off in the sunset.

“The Apache Kid’s Escape” is one of the sleaziest westerns I have ever seen and also one of the worst. The film is horrendously paced and awkwardly edited and the acting is abysmal across the board, however Henry Roquemore appears to be having fun playing the sleazy bank owner Conway. However, the scene where Perrin rides his horse off the cliff is an amazing stunt that belongs in a much better film. Seeing young Virginia Ashcroft pawing and ogling the much older Jack Perrin made me genuinely uncomfortable, she is just mesmerized by him and is never seen without her hands all over him, this culminates when they share a hug and a kiss at the end of the picture where Perrin exclaims,”I nearly forgot to say goodbye to my only little sweetheart.”. It is no wonder the film is as sleazy as it is, considering that Dwain Esper, the man responsible for films such as 1934’s “Maniac,” 1938’s “Sex Madness” and the short film “How to Undress In Front of Your Husband” was the sound engineer.

To make matters worse, the film was written and directed by the worst filmmaker in the history of motion pictures, Robert J. Horner, a legless director that makes the likes of Ed Wood and Doris Wishman look like Kubrick and Scorsese by comparison. If you thought Victor Adamson’s films were terrible, the Horner films will have you lowering the measuring stick down to the very depths of Hell! The Horner atrocities are marred with horrible acting, tedious pacing, confounded story lines and poor sound. These films are the very bottom of the barrel.

There are varying accounts as to Horner’s formative years and how he became disabled. The most likely story is that he lost his legs at six years old, while playing on a set of railroad tracks in his hometown of Spring Valley, Illinois. Sadly, the story gets worse from there as Horner’s father deserted the family which led to Horner and his brother living at a school for crippled children where Horner was abused constantly by staff. He was abused so much that he required four operations on his already severed legs, ultimately losing his stumps.

Horner’s business practices were just as bad, if not worse (if such a thing is possible) than the product he was churning out to the Saturday morning crowd. Horner would place advertisements in the newspaper persuading young actors and actresses to put up money in exchange for roles in his films. However, once Horner obtained said funds, he would renege on his offer and flee without a trace to likely do the same again in another territory. Horner would even cheat actors of their pay. Jack Perrin, the star of “The Apache Kid’s Escape,” won a court settlement of $1,475 due to unpaid salaries from Horner.

Horner likely ended his film career with slapdash efforts starring such bottom-rung cowboys as Buffalo Bill Jr. (Jay Wilsey), Bill Cody and Ted Wells. Some of which I may unfortunately encounter in the future of this column.

Suffice it to say, “The Apache Kid’s Escape” is a mindbogglingly inept, sleazy and woefully misguided oater that one must see in order to gain an understanding of how starved the small towns were for entertainment.