Friday night and time to enjoy another George Montgomery Western from ClassicFlix!
The last couple Montgomery Westerns I watched, produced by Sam Katzman and directed by William Castle in 1954, were a little too weak and cartoonish for my taste, but GUN DUEL IN DURANGO was a return to form, the kind of solid Montgomery outing I've very much enjoyed with titles like GUN BELT (1953), THE LONE GUN (1954), and ROBBERS' ROOST (1955). I found it an enjoyable 73 minutes.
Montgomery plays Will Sabre, who used to ride with an outlaw gang. His former compadres (including Steve Brodie and Don "Red" Barry) are none too happy Will wants to go straight.
Will is even more determined to put his past behind him when he stumbles across an orphaned boy, Robbie (Bobby Clark); he wants to raise Robbie with Judy (Ann Robinson of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS), who's been patiently waiting for Will to return to her.
Will adopts the name Dan Tomlinson and settles down with Judy and Robbie in Durango, where the sheriff (Frank Ferguson) is a bit suspicious of Dan but gives him room to prove himself. Then Will's old gang comes to town with plans to force Will to help them rob the bank...
Frank Ferguson, are all pros who elevate a run-of-the-mill, familiar storyline with their appealing personalities and talent. That includes Brodie and Barry, who sure knew how to portray slimy bad guys! The story is well-paced and has a satisfying, visually interesting concluding shootout, with Montgomery on the roof of the outlaws' shack.
Montgomery does a very good job, particularly in the early scenes where he is trying to figure out what to do with the little boy he's found and how to get out of his old life; he conveys both a brusqueness befitting an outlaw and a touching awkwardness as he recognizes this is a good kid who needs someone.
It would have been nice to have more back story -- Judy makes a reference to Will having been educated and feeling he'd had to prove how "tough" he was in the West -- but generally there's not a lot of room for that in these short Westerns.
As always, Montgomery's got a great hat! That man may have looked better in a cowboy hat than anyone in '50s Westerns.
The movie, shot by Maury Gertsman, has a sort of familiar "TV Western" look, shot on Southern California movie ranches, but the DVD-R from MGM is of excellent quality, with a crisp picture.
The production values aren't perfect -- the front of Judy's house is clearly in a soundstage, while her barn and corral are out on a movie ranch somewhere -- but the familiar movie ranch streets serve their purpose just fine.
GUN DUEL IN DURANGO was directed by Sidney Salkow from a script by Louis Stevens.
Montgomery fans might also like to visit A Drifting Cowboy for photos from his Westerns.