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Bullets for Rustlers

(aka "On Special Duty" 1940)


Columbia Pictures Corporation

Production Dates: October 26 - November 3, 1939

Release Date: 1940 03 05

Running time: 57-58 min (6 reels)

Key book (production) number: 32






Production Stills



        Bullets for Rustlers involves cattle rustling. The local sheriff has been unable to discover who is behind it all and sends for help from the Cattleman's Association. Range Detective, Steve Beaumont, solves the mystery by pretending to be a rustler himself and working from the inside.

        Bullets for Rustlers was released a month before Blazing Six Shooters but it is years apart in excellence. Where Blazing Six Shooters was a great little movie, Bullets for Rustlers has very little going for it but the music. Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers certainly got their exercise that week, racing across the landscape on horseback. To make matters worse, our video copy is poor so the captured images are not as clear as we would wish. This movie is available on DVD.




Left: Charles Starrett as Steve Beaumont and Lorna Gray (Adrian Booth) as Ann Houston

Right: Bob Nolan, as Ann's foreman, and the Sons of the Pioneers


Left: Kenneth MacDonald as Ed Brock

Right: Dick Curtis as Strang and Francis Walker as Ellis


Left: Hal Taliaferro as Eb Smith and Jack Rockwell as Sheriff Webb

Right: Edward LeSaint as Judge Baxter


Left: Lee Prather as Tom Andrews

Right: Eddie Laughton as the bartender, Shorty



Tumbling Tumbleweeds (over opening credits) (Bob Nolan)
We’re Headin’ For The Home Corral (Tim & Glenn Spencer)
With Someone Like You (Glenn Spencer)
By a Campfire On The Trail (Tim Spencer)
We’re Headin’ For The Home Corral / Tumbling Tumbleweeds (over closing credits)



        A group of cheerful cowpunchers are riding into the picture singing We're Headin' for the Home Corral. Hugh asks the foreman, Bob, if they have to corral the cattle before supper and Bob directs him to push the cattle on a little farther so Pat can set up camp and start cooking. Pat violently objects. Bob laughs and suggests taking a vote on who will be the cook and then he canters on ahead.



        Lloyd catches up with Bob and they discuss how best to tell their boss that the herd of a thousand has mysteriously dwindled to 300. They are interrupted by gunfire. Two men are chasing a man on a white horse. Bob recognizes the sheriff so he calls the Pioneers and they cut off the man on the white horse. Bob yells for him to stop and they keep the stranger covered until the Sheriff rides up.



        The Sheriff tells Bob that the stranger was caught rustling up by the corner of his ranch. Bob does not recognize him and Eb Smith is all for hanging him. Bob, still angry because of the depredations on his employer's herd, is ready to drag him off his horse and hang him right there and then. The Sheriff insists on a trial and they take him to town. Bob sends Pat to the scene of the crime to find evidence.



    Bob's boss, Ann Houston, is in town with the rest of the ranchers, meeting with Tom Andrews before he leaves for the East. Tom's job is to persuade the backers to give the ranchers more time to pay off their notes. The ranchers have put up their ranches as security for a railroad track and the notes are due in two weeks.  All this is watched by Ed Brock, saloon keeper, and, with a sardonic twist to his mouth, a big man named Strang. These men, although no one is aware of it, are the rustlers.



        The Sheriff and Ann's men gallop into town with their prisoner. He asks Brock if they can use his saloon for the trial. As the stranger passes Ann, he grins and salutes her. She snubs him.



        As the trial progresses we learn that Steve Beaumont was simply roasting a rabbit when the Sheriff galloped up to arrest him, convinced he was a rustler holding a running iron in the fire. Steve puts his hands behind his head and starts to whistle.



        Steve argues that it was only a stick they saw but he has to grab his gun from the judge and hold it on the court before he can have his say. The court quietens with curiosity and everyone gets a lesson in baking rabbit between sliced long eared cactus strips. Pat returns with "the evidence" (a coffee pot) which he puts on the Judge's desk. He was asked about a running iron and said there was none. He said he had found only a roasted rabbit. Where was the rabbit? He had eaten it. Court is dismissed for lack of evidence.



        As everyone left the court, Strang muttered something to Brock about Beaumont being part of some gang. Steve asks Ann for a job and is snubbed again.



        Steve asks the Sheriff for his gun and finds he will not get it until he leaves town so he enters the bar and orders a beer. Ellis follows him and comments on how he put one over on the judge. Steve, surly, replies that he doesn't like Ellis' face, pushes him, then hits him and a brawl begins. Brock and Strang watch with interest but no interference. Steve wins but Brock advises him to fight in the street next time. As Steve leaves, he drops a note. Brock reads it and it seems to confirm his impression that Steve had a gang. The three men watch Steve leave town and Brock sends Ellis to trail him.



        Later that evening, we find the Sons of the Pioneers singing "With Someone Like You" around their campfire.  Ann is still with them. As they sing, Steve sneaks up close enough to see what is going on. Pat rides in from the herd and Tim goes out to replace him. As the men prepare for the night, the Sheriff rides up and is made welcome by Ann and her crew.



        The Sheriff offers to see Ann home but she leaves on her own and stumbles across Raider, then Steve. She gets the drop on Steve and takes him back to camp. She is certain Steve has been making plans to rustle more of her cattle. Bob makes a quick draw and invites the Sheriff to a hanging party. The Sheriff chuckles and advises Steve to tell them who he really is before it's too late. He brings out the badge indentifying himself as a detective for The Cattleman's Association. The Sheriff lets them know that all the playacting was his idea, his and Judge Baxter's. Steve lets the Sheriff know that Ellis had picked up the note and was following him but Steve lost him on the trail to the Border. Ann asks how she can help and Steve requests that she arrange to have a small part of her herd up near the Pass so he can run them off. His plan is to get Ellis and a few of his men to help him.




            Next day, Steve and Ann watch from a hill while Bob and the Pioneers bring in a small herd. Bob rides up and they make their plans. Bob's paint rears as he turns him back to the herd. Ann wishes Steve good luck.



        Ann rides into town to tell the Sheriff that everything is ready. Ellis rides in and reports to Strang and Brock that he lost Steve. Ellis is sure they have seen the last of him just as Steve canters into town. Brock is furious and sends Strang down to see what he is up to. Strang waits at the bar until Beaumont walks in. Strang goes upstairs and Steve tells the bartender that he needs to see Ellis. He wants to cut him in on a little deal he has in mind. As Steve leaves for the Sheriff's office to get his gun, Shorty runs upstairs to tell Brock that he really is a rustler and wants Ellis to go in on the deal with him. Brock devises a plan to get rid of Steve once and for all.



        Steve enters the Sheriff's office, ostensibly to get his gun because he is leaving town for good. He lets the Sheriff and the Judge know what he has said in the bar. He meets Brock on the way. Brock enters the Sheriff's office and warns him that Steve is planning to rustle some more cattle with Ellis. The Sheriff asks if Ellis is a rustler and Brock assures him he isn't but "it takes a thief to catch a thief". All Ellis has to do is help Beaumont chase off the herd and then the posse will be waiting for them.



        Unaware that he is playing into their hands, Beaumont makes his plans with Ellis in the saloon. He is to meet Ellis at Ann Houston's old line shack in an hour. Strang, who has overheard everything, tells Ellis to round up the boys. They watch Steve ride out of town and so does Ann, who also watches Strang go into the Sheriff's office to tell him that the plan worked. This is not how the Sheriff had planned it and now he does not know what to do. Steve is walking into a trap.



        They send Ann to the line shack to warn Steve. She ties her horse out of sight and joins Steve in the cabin. When Strang and Ellis ride up, she hides in a back room and tries to get out to find Bob and the rest of her crew. The window sash is stiff so she takes off one glove and uses it to push with, but it makes a sound which alerts the men. Steve, the first through the door, sees her drop to the ground outside the window but the others do not. He sees that she has dropped a glove and he hopes no one else will notice it. Strang does see her glove, picks it up and pockets it without Steve seeing him.



        The three men ride to the canyon, Ellis and Steve go on together but Strang leaves them. Ann races to get the Pioneers. She finds them doing chores and tells them to hurry and meet Steve at the Pass.



        Steve and Ellis move the herd along toward the Pass but Ellis seems a bit nervous. Strang meets the posse and leads them toward the Pass but Bob and the Pioneers arrive first and disarm Ellis. The Pioneers bring the herd back while Steve takes Ellis prisoner.



        Steve asks Ann to stop the posse by telling them she caught Steve with the cattle but he got away. Strang notices that her glove is missing and winks at Brock. The Sheriff and posse head back to town. Strang tells Brock about Ann's glove and they realize that Steve must be a lawman in cahoots with the Sheriff.



        Brock orders Strang to bring Andrews in so they can make new plans. Andrews is not happy about being called in when he is supposed to be back East dickering with the bankers. But Ellis has not returned and they are afraid the, if he is captured, he will spill everything. Brock is worried that the ranchers will learn that Andrews and Brock are holding the notes and do not not intend to give them an extension.



        In the evening, back at the ranch, the Sons of the Pioneers are singing "By a Campfire on the Trail" for Ann, Steve, the Sheriff and the Judge. Ellis is tied to a chair and making faces at Pat Brady who can see him from the porch. Everyone leaves and Ann reminds Steve to call her first thing in the morning.



        In the morning as the men leave the bunkhouse to get ready to go to town, Steve asks Bob if Ann is ready. Bob says he will go and make sure. He comes running back with the news that she is not there and her bed has not been slept in at all. Steve thinks she might be at the line shack and leaves with the instructions that, if he is not back within a half hour, to ride into town and tell the Sheriff which they are forced to do.



        Ann has been captured by Strang and Brock and has been resisting them. She continues to say she knows nothing about anything until Brock shows her her glove and she realizes that all is known. She tells them that they had better leave because Ellis will talk and indict them all. In her hearing, Brock tells Strang that they will get Andrews and take her along until they get to the border.



        Steve, stealing close to the line shack, watches Brock gallop toward town. He dismounts, ties Raider and then sneaks along the porch but his presence is given away by the ringing of his spurs. Strang pushes Ann into the other room, warning her not to make a sound or he will kill Steve. He hides behind the door as Steve comes in and gets the drop on him. Ann runs into Steve's arms. They all sit and prepare to wait until Brock gets back.



        Back at the ranch, Hugh is left in charge of Ellis but Ellis has been working at his bonds and has freed himself. He escapes and rides into town.



        The Pioneers reach town just after Brock. They tell the Sheriff that Ann has disappeared. Brock suggests she might have ridden over to one of the ranches. After they ride around the corner out of Brock's sight, Bob reins in and lets him know that Steve thinks she's being held at the line shack. They leave in that direction at a run.



        At the line shack, Steve signals to Ann that he is going to make a move. She nods. He looks toward the window and yells, "Here they come!" Strang jumps to the window, realizes it is a trick and runs back. Steve kicks a box into his way and Strang falls. They fight all over the room, two heavy men with one girl trying to keep out of their way. The Pioneers are coming at a dead run. Steve knocks Strang down and tells Ann to keep him covered. The Pioneers arrive with the Sheriff who puts the handcuffs on Strang. They head back to the ranch to lock Strang up with Ellis. Ann lets them know that Andrews is in on the rustling, too.



        Hugh gallops up to tell them that Ellis escaped and has headed for town. This time he is left in charge of Strang with a strict warning to keep an eye on him this time. Ellis races up Brock's staircase and warns the men and Shorty who pack up the money and notes quickly and take the stagecoach, watched by the Judge. A citizen takes a shot at them and is killed.



        The Judge tells Steve, the Sheriff and the Pioneers as they arrive what has happened and there is a race between the mounted men and the coach. The crooks abandon the stage in the rocks and both sides fire at each other until Steve climbs up and around to get the drop on Ellis who fires. Steve wounds him. Bob is behind a boulder with Ann and every time he squeezes off a shot he winces. They round up the outlaws, open their saddlebags to find the notes on the ranches and all the truth is known.



        The last scene takes place in the court room where the Judge asks Steve what right he has to come into town and steal the prettiest girl in the valley. Steve replies that he will leave town but Ann takes his gun, holds it on him and tells him he cannot leave until he has taught her how to cook rabbit Texas-style. Steve replies that it would take twenty year and the Sons of the Pioneers finish the film with the last verse of "We're Headin' for the Home Corral".



Production Stills





Courtesy of Les Adams






Courtesy of Jan Scott


Courtesy of Jan Scott





Courtesy of Buddy Bryant



Courtesy of Buddy Bryant


Courtesy of Buddy Bryant


Courtesy of Buddy Bryant


Courtesy of Buddy Bryant



Courtesy of Buddy Bryant


Courtesy of Les Adams


Courtesy of Buddy Bryant



Calin Coburn Collection ©2004



Calin Coburn Collection ©2004



Calin Coburn Collection ©2004



Courtesy of Fred Sopher


Calin Coburn Collection ©2004


Courtesy of Buddy Bryant