Pirates of the Prairie (1942)
Directed by Howard Bretherton and written by J. Benton Cheney and Doris Schroeder from a Berne Giler story this B movie Tim Holt Western features goofy crooner Cliff Edwards as ‘Ukulele Ike’ a sidekick-like character who sings a couple of short tunes while he strums his guitar. Holt plays Larry Durant a deputy marshal who’s sent in undercover to untamed Spencerville to investigate a corrupted vigilante group and help to establish a more formal system of law in the area before the railroad completes its line and builds a new station there.
Spencerville is actually divided into East and West halves and some of the masked vigilantes who’d been charged with keeping order in the communities had become greedy and begun forcing its residents into accepting token payments for signing over their property rights and/or businesses at the point of a gun. Town elder & namesake John Spencer (John H. Elliott) is unaware that his right-hand man Lew Harmon (Roy Barcroft) and his henchman (including Charles King) have been abusing their positions of authority and planning to profit with the coming railroad.
Pretending to be a gunsmith Larry with some help from sheriff wannabe Ike eventually learns about the shady dealings from Rufe Jackson (Karl Hackett) though Spencer’s pretty daughter Helen (Nell O’Day) unintentionally (romantically) distracts him and delays the process. When the railroad’s chief surveyor (Edward Cassidy) informs Larry that East Spencerville will be getting the railroad’s terminal in lieu of where Harmon’s men had been extorting their properties Larry gets to witness first hand the kind of justice some of the vigilantes have been wielding. Unfortunately Spencer is then killed which forces the deputy marshal to organize his own group of citizens at Jackson’s to stave off the vigilantes’ attack and restore order to Spencerville.