For our October gathering David Morrell brought LAST TRAIN FROM GUN HILL (1959). It’s a tension-filled tale about Marshal Matt Morgan (Kirk Douglas) out to arrest the two men who raped and killed a woman. The woman was a Cherokee Indian, but she was also Morgan’s wife. One of the men responsible for the crime is Rick Belden (Earl Holliman) the son of one of the marshal’s good friends, Craig Belden (Anthony Quinn), a wealthy rancher living near the town of Gun Hill. When Morgan comes to make his arrest, Belden tells him to leave town, but Morgan captures Rick and says he’s taking his prisoner out that night on the nine o’clock train.
That’s a lot of story, but there’s plenty more to it. And just when you think you might know what’s coming next, you’re probably in for a surprise.
This film does sound like a variation on 3:10 TO YUMA and HIGH NOON. All three are grim in their own way, but the point of each is quite different. In YUMA, a farmer agrees to help deliver a prisoner because he’ll be paid a hefty reward. In HIGH NOON, the marshal must act on his own to fight men coming to kill him as the town refuses to help. In this film, Morgan is doing his job but you can tell by his face he’d just as soon kill the man who murdered his wife. Also, the town of Gun Hill won’t help Morgan because Belden owns the town, essentially giving them their livelihoods, all except Linda, (the remarkable Carolyn Jones), a former saloon girl and Belden’s former lover struggling with her own demons of regret and loss.
In fairness, there are a few slow moments early on, but otherwise it’s a tight 95 minutes. John Sturges, no stranger to Westerns, directed the script by James Poe, from a story called SHOWDOWN by Les Crutchfield, with a sure and steady hand. He had already made BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK and GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL and would shortly follow with the rousing THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and THE GREAT ESCAPE, arguably his best film.
David brought a new blu ray of the film transferred from a 4K scan of the original negative shot in VistaVision. In the 1950s, Paramount created VistaVision, a new process that allowed for a wider, sharper picture. The blu ray transfer does VistaVision justice. The film can also be found for free online.
Along with David, award-winning author and New York Times best-selling author of FIRST BLOOD that introduced the character Rambo, our group includes Johnny D. Boggs, record eight-time Spur Award-winning author and Owen Wister Award winner whose work includes the excellent A THOUSAND TEXAS LONGHORNS, Kirk Ellis, Emmy-winning writer and producer of HBO’s JOHN ADAMS and TNT’s INTO THE WEST, Kirk’s wife, Sheila, and Robert Nott, award-winning journalist and author of several books on Western films, including his recent THE FILMS OF BUDD BOETTICHER.
Available via YouTube Movies & Shows. (Preview below)