Saturday, May 09, 2015

Tonight's Movie: The Hired Gun (1957) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

THE HIRED GUN (1957) is a Rory Calhoun Western just released by the Warner Archive.

This was the first of a trio of Westerns which Calhoun coproduced in 1957-58. He stars as Gil McCord, a gunman hired to bring in Ellen Beldon (Anne Francis) for the murder of her husband.

Ellen had previously escaped hanging thanks to the help of Judd Farrow (Chuck Connors). She fled to New Mexico, which refused to extradite her back to Texas, so Ellen's father-in-law (John Litel) hires McCord to bring her back to Texas for the hanging.

As they travel, Gil begins to doubt that Ellen is a murderess, but her brother-in-law (Vince Edwards) remains determined to see her die.

This is a very basic Western without a great deal of character background or depth to relationships. It is what it is, a short 64-minute action film as characters travel hither and yon while Gil -- and by extension the audience -- sort out what really happened the night Ellen's husband died.

Simple though it is, I found this Western good company. Calhoun and Francis are both attractive, with compelling personalities.

The casting of Francis is rather interesting; she had recently starred in a number of top titles, including BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955), BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (1955), and FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956), yet here she is in an economical little black and white Western. Although produced by Calhoun and Victor Orsatti, the film was distributed by MGM, where Francis was under contract.

The movie's finest attribute is the black and white CinemaScope filming by Harold J. Marzorati. The movie's look is reason enough to see it, especially for those who love Lone Pine. There are beautiful sweeping vistas of the mountains and some great shots of the Alabama Hills. A handful of soundstage shots are mixed in but for the most part the movie was filmed in the great outdoors.

THE HIRED GUN was directed by Ray Nazarro. Buckley Angell and David Lang wrote the screenplay, based on a story by Angell. Robert Burton and Guinn "Big Boy" Williams appear in supporting roles.

For more on this new release, including interesting background on the making of the movie, visit Toby's review at 50 Westerns From the 50s.

The Warner Archive DVD is a beautiful widescreen print. The disc includes what is labeled a "textless" trailer, without any sort of title art or cast credits.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger KC said...

I agree with your take on this: very basic, but gorgeous--and with a pair of appealing leads. My review is scheduled for tomorrow (I think. I've been trying to do these ahead of time!) I've been enjoying these WAC western releases primarily because of the beautiful Lone Pine settings. Your coverage of the film festival out there gave me a new appreciation for those locations.

7:19 PM  
OpenID fiftieswesterns said...

Enjoyed your review, Laura.

It's funny, but after watching this thing, going back and checking out a couple of scenes again, then writing my post, I'm ready to watch it again.

Over at my place, Jerry called it a "small but well-made and unpretentious action western." That's the perfect description.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi KC!

I'm looking forward to reading your review! Interested to hear that you saw it pretty much the same way.

I'm really happy to know that my coverage of the Lone Pine Festival heightened your appreciation of the area! It's such a special place; very much hope you have the chance to visit one day.

Toby, thanks so much for linking to my review! I think Jerry's take is right on. I wish there had been more to the movie, but what's there is quite enjoyable and sure looks good.

Best wishes,

7:51 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

As a follow-up to KC's comment, here is her very enjoyable review. :)

Best wishes,

10:43 PM  
Blogger KC said...

Thanks Laura! That's a good idea to cross link. I've put your review on my post as well.

9:42 PM  

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