Sunday, February 26, 2012

Silly Cinema: The Terror of Tiny Town (1938)

The 1930's was a strange time, to be sure.  The world languished in the fallout of the stock market crash as the far-reaching ravages of the Great Depression left everyone wondering if there ever would be "another cup of coffee" and "another piece of pie."  The hopelessness of the Dust Bowl epitomizes the desperation of the era, but I think we forget that the decade cannot be singularly represented by a Dorothea Lange photograph.  When I think of the 1930's, I think of Nick & Nora Charles, Busby Berkeley, Schiaparelli, The World's Fairs, and of course, all-midget, western musicals, like The Terror of Tiny Town. 

The Terror of Tiny Town (1938)
"A rollickin', rootin', tootin', shootin' drama of the great outdoors"

The IMDb description for The Terror of Tiny Town reads as follows: "An evil gunslinging midget comes to terrorize the good little people of Tiny Town.  The townspeople organize to defeat him, and zany antics ensue."  Certainly there is more to the plot than that, but in a nutshell, it works.  It may seam a little flippant, but when it comes to a film populated entirely by little people, a nutshell actually seems perfectly proportioned for the job.

Boo!  Hissssss!
Little Billy as "The Terror of Tiny Town."

The Terror of Tiny Town is often referred to as an exploitation movie and I can't say I was entirely unaffected by the title card that read, "Columbia Pictures Corporation presents Jed Buell's Midgets."  But the headquarters of wacky tacky are found at the exact intersection of irreverence and political incorrectness.  Refusing to take oneself or any one subject too seriously is fundamental to the preservation of some true wacky tacky wonders.  As a wise man once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

 A tense moment in The Terror of Tiny Town

Of course, there are moments in the film that employ the use of slapstick and sight-gags that trade on the petite stature of the cast, but at its core, the movie is really just a textbook western musical - white hats, black hats, cowboys, shootouts, horses (in this case, Shetland Ponies), chases, saloons, guitars, a boy and a girl.

Billy Curtis as the good guy, Buck Lawson, and Yvonne Moray as Nancy Preston.

I actually enjoyed this film; the novelty was there, but most of the songs were good especially "Down on the Sunset Trail."  The thing I really loved about this movie was that it was very watchable as it came in short (sorry, I had to) at just about one hour.  Before I looked it up, I was convinced that Terror of Tiny Town was filmed in the early 1940's - post-Wizard of Oz.  Mistakenly, I assumed that The Wizard of Oz set off a "muchkin frenzy" but apparently Jed Buell had already been brainstorming.  His films, mostly westerns, appeared to always be centered around a novelty cast whether all little people or all African-American actors.  He ended up launching the careers of many of his stars and made established vocalist, Herb Jeffries into a film star.

What did we do before youTube?
Here, you can watch the entire film.

If you have a free hour, I would heartily recommend the "Little Guys with Big Guns" in The Terror of Tiny Town.



Mr. Tiny (yep)


  1. Brilliant blog for a brilliant movie.....munchkin cowboys are quite entertaining! A must watch movie!

    1. Thanks Anon! I guess it's the little things in life that can bring the greatest pleasure.