Monday, August 06, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Gunplay (1951)

I hadn't seen a Tim Holt Western since SADDLE LEGION (1951) last January, so I was overdue to see another one!

I chose GUNPLAY (1951), which like SADDLE LEGION is from the Warner Archive's Tim Holt Western Classics Collection Vol. 3.

GUNPLAY was entertaining enough, though I didn't care for the story as much as I usually do. Tim Holt (played by...Tim Holt!) and his buddy Chito (Richard Martin) have been hired by mail to work as ranch hands for Terry Blake (Joan Dixon). When they arrive at the ranch they're surprised but pleased to realize that Terry is an attractive woman.

The plot takes a detour here to follow Sam (Robert Bice) and Chip (Harper Carter) Martin. Martin has been done out of money by Landry (Mauritz Hugo) but after Martin forcibly claims his rightful property, Landry sends his henchmen (including Robert J. Wilke) to kill Martin and get the money back. Chip hides and survives but there's a disturbing scene when he finds his lynched father.

The above sequence setting up the story with the Martins took way too much time away from Tim and Chito and was more than a little troubling to watch; it was definitely darker than your average Holt Western! From that point the film improves, as Tim, Chito, and Terry search for the killers and plan Chip's future.

Regardless of the story, Holt and Martin are always terrific company. My enjoyment of the movie was also elevated by the presence of Joan Dixon, leading lady of the crime films BUNCO SQUAD (1950) and ROADBLOCK (1951).

Dixon appeared in five Holt Westerns including the previously reviewed LAW OF THE BADLANDS (1951). I look forward to seeing her in the future in the Holt Westerns PISTOL HARVEST (1951), HOT LEAD (1951), and DESERT PASSAGE (1952), along with the crime film EXPERIMENT ALCATRAZ (1950). At that point I'll have seen all of her movies, excepting a bit part she had in CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH AND POCAHONTAS (1953). it's a shame she didn't make more films as she's a striking presence.

The scenery in GUNPLAY, filmed in black and white by J. Roy Hunt, was only so-so; it was all done on Southern California movie ranches or the nearby area. IMDb says filming took place in Santa Clarita. No Lone Pine or Idyllwild this time!

GUNPLAY was directed by Lesley Selander. It runs 61 minutes.

Though GUNPLAY wasn't one of my favorite Holt Westerns, I've seen seven of the films in this Tim Holt Vol. 3 set and highly recommend it. In addition to the films being fun to watch, the set and the discs themselves are attractively produced. Western fans will love it along with the other three volumes in this series.


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

"GUNPLAY" was late on in the Holt series (and late on in the cycle of series westerns generally)and budget cuts and the lack of location shooting were becoming evident. RKO kept a decent quality in the Holts right to the end though. I savour each one.

5:34 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

This definitely was showing the budget cuts, Jerry! We're so spoiled with all the Holt films made in Lone Pine or on the Jack Garner Ranch in Idyllwild. Still, I agree, even with the lesser entries, you just can't go wrong with Tim and "Chito."

Best wishes,

8:43 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Have you seen 1949's "Brothers in the Saddle" with Holt and Steve Brodie? My all-time favorite Holt picture. It's almost a western noir with lots of rough action. Couldn't find a review on your site and I would be interested in reading your take on the film.

11:39 PM  

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