Friday, January 17, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Gun Runners (1958) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

THE GUN RUNNERS (1958), the third film version of Ernest Hemingway's novel TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, was recently released on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino Lorber.

THE GUN RUNNERS followed TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944) and THE BREAKING POINT (1950) in bringing the Hemingway story to the screen. This version was scripted by Daniel Mainwaring (OUT OF THE PAST) and Paul Monash.

The film was directed by Don Siegel, whose name has been showing up in my viewing with regularity over the past year, including directing the previously reviewed Kino Lorber releases of MADIGAN (1968) and CHARLEY VARRICK (1973).

Audie Murphy plays Sam Martin, who operates a charter fishing boat out of Key West. Sam is happily married to Lucy (Patricia Owens, THE LAW AND JAKE WADE), but struggling financially.

After a client stiffs him for a fee, Sam is hard up for cash. Against his better judgement Sam agrees to take Hanagan (Eddie Albert) and his girlfriend Eva (Gita Hall) to battle-torn Cuba, ostensibly for a night on the town; however, Hanagan is not who he seems -- the suitcase he carries for an evening in nightclubs may be a tipoff -- and kills two men on his way off the island.

Matters go from bad to worse when Hanagan buys the note for Sam's boat, forcing Sam to pilot Hanagan and his gun-running pals back to Cuba in order to retain his boat and his livelihood. Matters get really ugly when Carlos (Carlos Romero), a Cuban revolutionary who is buying the guns, discovers some of the cases on Sam's boat are filled with rocks...

I enjoyed THE GUN RUNNERS quite well. I'm an Audie Murphy fan, and I found this film an exciting and well-paced 83 minutes. It's not Hawks and Bogart's TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, but what is? (I've not yet seen THE BREAKING POINT.) The film stands on its own as a well-done adventure story.

In fact, I find it curious that multiple reviews refer to Murphy as "bland" or lacking "genuine toughness." I just don't read him that way.

Murphy may be quiet -- and he's surely a different style of actor than his predecessors in this story, Humphrey Bogart or John Garfield -- but as I've watched him, mostly in Westerns, I've always seen a fascinating dangerous streak underneath the mild-mannered exterior. Perhaps that perception is informed by knowledge of Murphy's real-life war record, but in his films he proves time and again that he's really not someone who should be messed with.

Honestly, I rather prefer Murphy's understated manner to Garfield's often showy, more emotional style. A brief glance or look from Murphy may contain volumes. He's consistently underrated.

I've also seen references to Murphy and Owens having no chemistry, but again, it appears I was watching a different movie than others who have reviewed the film. I particularly enjoyed the steamy depiction of Sam and Lucy's marriage, with scenes and lines which are surprisingly direct for the late '50s. I also appreciated that there were plenty of these domestic love scenes, which provided a nice counterbalance for the action sequences.

My one real quibble with the film was that I found the ending too ambiguous, although I'm choosing to interpret it in the most positive manner!

The good supporting cast includes Everett Sloane, Richard Jaeckel, Herb Vigran, John Qualen, Paul Birch, Jack Elam, and Peggy Maley.

Although set in Florida and Cuba, the movie was shot off California's Newport Beach and Balboa Island.

The black and white photography by Hal Mohr isn't anything particularly flashy, but it gets the job done, and the Kino Lorber Blu-ray presents a nice, crisp widescreen print. The soundtrack is fine as well.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray includes the film's trailer and three additional trailers for movies directed by Don Siegel.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Margot Shelby said...

I have yet to see this version and will definitively now track it down. Murphy supposedly lacking genuine toughness is something I've heard many times too. Seems some reviewers didn't do their research.

To Have and Have Not is of course fun but has really nothing to do with the novel. The Breaking Point is a fantastic but very depressing movie and stays close to the source material. I wrote about it a while ago. Well worth seeking out.

1:31 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I would love to hear what you think, Margot! I've seen other reviews which echo the two I linked, and I just don't get it. Funny how the same actor can be viewed so differently by various viewers. But I guess that's also part of the fun of movies, we each bring different things to them and will enjoy them differently as well.

If THE BREAKING POINT is depressing I wonder if that means I should give the more worrisome interpretation to the end of this movie...Hmmmm. I actually have the Criterion edition of BREAKING POINT and should get it out at some point, and I'll check out your review as well. Thanks!

Best wishes,

1:56 PM  

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