Sunday, September 10, 2006

Tonight's Movie: The Fastest Gun Alive (1956)

Tonight I wanted a change of pace and picked out a Western, as I haven't watched one in a while. THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE seemed like an appropriate choice, in honor of the late Glenn Ford.

George Temple (Ford) is a mild-mannered storekeeper with a lovely wife (Jeanne Crain) and a baby on the way. But George is tortured by a secret past as "the fastest gun alive." One day he cracks and demonstrates his shooting skills to the townspeople. And then a man (Broderick Crawford) who wants to be the fastest gun alive arrives in town...

This is a quiet movie which is more talk than action. While not a particularly exciting film, it builds to a moving climax. Ford and Crain are touching in the leads, and a wealth of well-known Western actors, including Leif Erickson, Chubby Johnson, and Virginia Gregg, fill the roles of the townspeople. Crawford's henchmen are played by Noah Beery and John Dehner.

A curiosity in the film is the inclusion of Russ Tamblyn in the cast as one of the townspeople. Early on in the film Tamblyn performs a 7 BRIDES style acrobatic number at a town dance. It's a fun piece, though a bit jarring as it really has nothing to do with the story which has just started developing, and his character isn't integral to the plot. Perhaps the dance was meant to demonstrate it's a nice town?

The musical score, incidentally, is by Andre Previn.

THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE was directed and co-written by Russell Rouse. It was filmed in black and white. Various sources peg the running time at 89, 91, 92, and 95 minutes; my videotape clocked in at 89 minutes.

The movie is available on video. It is also part of the Turner Classic Movies library; their page on the movie is here. (Spoiler alert: the TCM page discloses the entire plot, including a twist ending.)

THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE isn't a top-tier movie, but it rewards the patient viewer and is worth seeing.

August 2010 Update: THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE is now available in DVD-R format from the Warner Archive.

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