FURY AT GUNSIGHT PASS (** 1/2)
Our Western Night movie group met last Sunday and it was Robert Nott’s turn to curate. He chose a couple of Western Bs. Both were released in 1956, both were shot in black-and-white and both had story problems. But what an entertaining evening!
The first feature was MAN FROM DEL RIO with Anthony Quinn as Dave Robles, a hard-drinking Mexican gunslinger who comes to the town of Mesa seeking vengeance on the shootists who tormented his town of Del Rio. When offered the job of sheriff by the citizens, he accepts, but soon realizes the townsfolk see him as only a hired hand. Befriended by the town drunk (Whit Bissell) and scorned by the doctor’s housekeeper (Katy Jurado), Robles finds that searching for dignity comes at a price. The story problem concerns Jurado’s character who goes from detesting Robles one moment to trying to protect him the next. But there is an unexpected and terrific twist at the final showdown between Quinn’s Robles and a corrupt saloon owner (Peter Whitney) trying to take over the town.
The second feature was FURY AT GUNSIGHT PASS and it’s a hoot! Shot in a tight two weeks by Fred F. Sears and written by David Lang, the film runs a fast 67 minutes. Outlaws lead by David Brian plan to rob the bank in the town of Gunsight Pass during the wedding of the bank president’s son, played by Richard Long. Scratchy-voiced Percy Helton, who operates the wedding chapel and funeral parlor out of the same building, is in cahoots with the outlaws as he’s unhappy in his marriage to his wife (Katherine Warren) and wants part of the money so he can skedaddle. Outlaw leader Lang rides into town with three of his gang leaving his partner Neville Brand with four other bad guys to ride into town a short time after the robbery is in progress to help with the getaway. But the bank is closed because the wedding is running long, and Brian and his henchmen have to wait. The problem is, Brian and his men planned to rob the bank and run off with the loot without splitting it with Brand and his men.
The robbery goes awry, the bank president gets killed but is believed to have been in on the robbery. His just-married son is suddenly suspected, too. Meanwhile, Helton gets hold of the stolen money, hides it in a coffin but is killed during the shootout.
Then the fiercest sandstorm since the 1928 silent classic THE WIND whips up and for the next 40 minutes, the actors are pummeled with blowing debris and props while the good guys try to thwart the bad guys who have demanded the money and threaten to shoot a citizen every half hour until they get the stolen money, which has since been found by Helton’s wife who plans to abscond with it herself. The duplicity and double crosses are so much fun, and so many characters are so downright awful you forgive the picture its plot holes.
Visual Highlights from “The Wind”, starring Lillian Gish
Director Sears also had several other films released that same year: ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK, THE WEREWOLF and the sci fi classic EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS. Screenwriter Lang’s credits include CAGED FURY, HELLCATS OF THE NAVY and numerous television series like RAWHIDE, MAVERICK, and THE RIFLEMAN.
Our group includes Johnny D. Boggs, whose RETURN TO RED RIVER earned him his seventh Spur Award tying him with Elmer Kelton, award winning and New York Times best selling author David Morrell, and Kirk Ellis, Emmy-winner for JOHN ADAMS, and Robert Nott, journalist and author of biographies about Western film icons Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea, as well as co-authoring a memoir about Sam Peckinpah with Max Evans.