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Film / The Terror of Tiny Town

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The Terror of Tiny Town is a 1938 American film produced by Jed Buell, directed by Sam Newfield, and starring Billy Curtis. It is the world's only musical Western with an all-midget cast. Using a conventional Western story with an all midget cast, the filmmakers were able to showcase gags such as cowboys entering the local saloon by walking under the swinging doors, climbing into cupboards to retrieve items, and midget cowboys galloping around on Shetland ponies while roping calves.

In the Old West's Tiny Town, Bat Haines pits two ranching families, the Lawsons and the Prestons, against each other by stealing their cattle and blaming the other family for the thefts. Haines blackmails the sheriff, who is an ex-convict, into taking no action, then attacks a stagecoach carrying Nancy, the niece of Tex Preston. Nancy is rescued by Buck Lawson, and the two fall in love. Billy then battles Haines to stop the feud.

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The Terror of Tiny Town contains examples of:

  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: When Buck confronts Haines in the cabin at the end of the film, he shoots Haines' gun out of his hand. This leads to a Let's Fight Like Gentlemen battle.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: During the fight in the cabin, Haines attempts to smash a chair down on Buck while he is lying on the floor. Buck manages to roll out of the way just in time.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The store of dynamite Bat keeps in his cabin. He tell one of his mooks not to smoke next to it.
  • Cigar Chomper: The Big Bad Bat Haines smokes cigars, and often emphasises a point by biting the tip off a cigar and spitting it at the feet of whoever he is talking to.
  • Divide and Conquer: Bat Haines pits two rival ranching families against each other; planning to trigger a range war so they wipe each other out and he can acquire both properties cheaply in the aftermath.
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  • The Door Slams You: When Nancy goes charging out of Buck's jail cell, the door hits Otto in the face, knocking him over.
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: There is a live penguin in the barber shop of a tiny settlement in the dusty West. Its presence is never explained, or even commented on.
  • False Flag Operation: Haines rustles Lawson's cattle, and leaves behind a branding iron to make it look like it was the work of Tex Preston.
  • Frame-Up: Haines frames Buck for the murder of Tex Preston.
  • Having a Gay Old Time: During her song, Diamond Dolly sings to a midget cowpoke that he is "going to make love to her".
  • Heel–Face Turn: After being under Haines' thumb for all of the film, the sheriff eventually stands up to him and clears Buck of murder.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Haines tells nancy that Tex has been murdered before anyone except the murderer could have known that he was dead.
  • In the Back: Haines shoots Tex Preston in the back, and then frames Buck for the crime.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: After Buck shoots Haines' gun out of his hands, Haines tells him to get it over with and shoot him. Buck instead says he'll even the odds and throws away his own gun. A drawn-out fistfight follows,
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Bat Haines is attempting to manipulate Pop Lawson and Tex Preston into a range war, so he will be able to easily acquire both properties afterwards.
  • Magic Countdown: Nita lights the fuse on a bundle of dynamite and plants it under the floor of Haines' cabin. She flees and then Haines enters the cabin, followed by Buck. The two men get into a fight, but every time the camera cuts back to the dynamite, the fuse is still burning at the same point it was when Nita planted it. It eventually explodes just after Buck leaves the cabin in response to Nancy's yell.
  • Police are Useless: The sheriff is being blackmailed by the Big Bad Bat Haines to turn a blind eye to all of Haines' crimes, effectively letting Haines ride roughshod over the whole county.
  • Redemption Equals Death: When the sheriff finally stands up to Haines and exposes him as a rustler and murderer in front of the entire town, Haines shoots him dead.
  • The Rustler: Bat Haines is rustling cattle from both the Lawson and Preston ranches as part of a scheme to start a range war.
  • The Sheriff: The sheriff of Tiny Town is an ex-criminal who is being blackmailed by Bat Haines into turning a blind eye to all of Bat's crimes. Only when the crimes escalate to murder does he find the backbone to stand up to Bat. He then gets shot.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Buck and Nancy belong to families of feuding ranchers.
  • Woman Scorned: Angry because Haines hit her and neglected her in favour of Nancy, Nita plants explosives in his cabin.


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