Saturday, August 22, 2020

Tonight's Movie: No Name on the Bullet (1959) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

The terrific Audie Murphy Western NO NAME ON THE BULLET (1959) is now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

The movie is part of the Audie Murphy Collection, which was released by Kino Lorber Studio Classics earlier this month. The set also includes the previously reviewed THE DUEL AT SILVER CREEK (1952) and RIDE A CROOKED TRAIL (1958).

I was quite enthused about NO NAME ON THE BULLET when I first wrote about it here in 2013, and if anything I was more impressed watching this film a second time. It's a fascinating study in human behavior, with an excellent script by Gene L. Coon (based on a story by Howard Amacker) and a chilling performance by Murphy.

Murphy plays John Gant, a notorious hired killer whose arrival in a frontier town causes chaos among a number of local citizens. While Gant calmly drinks coffee and plays chess with Luke Canfield (Charles Drake), the town doctor, various terrified, guilt-ridden people begin to engage in extreme actions; one man leaves town, some of the men engage in a shootout, and another kills himself. Gant's mere presence inadvertently leads to some bad characters being cleared out of town before he finally deals with the man he was hired to kill.

As I commented in my past review, the movie reminds me strongly of my favorite MAVERICK episode, "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres" (1958), in which James Garner sat on a porch whittling, cheerfully saying "I'm workin' on it!" while others were taking care of business. Gant just keeps ordering more coffee while bemusedly watching the goings-on. The movie and TV show are otherwise very different, but the basic plot device is highly effective in both situations.

The underrated Murphy does a marvelous job in this as a loner who clearly enjoys the effect he has on others; he's also a strangely principled man who has no interest in killing anyone he wasn't paid to shoot.

In my review of RIDE A CROOKED TRAIL I mentioned that some reviewers like to suggest that the top supporting actors Murphy often worked with actually carry some of his movies; I disputed the idea in that review and would add that while the cast here is uniformly excellent, it's the compelling Murphy who carries this film start to finish. Thanks to Murphy's performance as the enigmatic yet fascinating gunman, I was left wanting to know even more about John Gant, where he'd been and where he was headed.

This is a particularly good role for Drake as the doctor determined to stop Gant from taking human life. Their philosophical discussions about Gant's "work" are as interesting as the action scenes.

My only criticism of the film is the storyline with Virginia Grey and Warren Stevens as runaway lovers convinced her ex has sent Gant to take them out; it feels as though a couple of scenes might have been left on the cutting-room floor. Grey's last lines, however, are terrific. I love what this favorite actress does in just a few scenes.

I also especially like Willis Bouchey as the worried sheriff, who can't arrest Gant as he always engineers his hits to be self-defense. The deep supporting cast includes Joan Evans, R.G. Armstrong, Whit Bissell, Jerry Paris, Edgar Stehli, Karl Swenson, and Russ Bender.

NO NAME ON THE BULLET was directed by Jack Arnold. It was filmed in Eastmancolor and CinemaScope by Harold Lipstein. The movie runs a perfectly paced 77 minutes.

The print and sound are excellent. Kino Lorber's Blu-ray also includes the trailer, one additional trailer, and a commentary track by Steve Mitchell and Gary Gerani.

NO NAME ON THE BULLET and the Audie Murphy Collection are both highly recommended.

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


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

The screenplay is impressive, and you have the feeling that all involved, especially the actors, were happy to pour their creative souls into the movie.

I do not believe I have "made my daughter watch this" yet. As always, she will thank me.

6:42 AM  
Blogger john k said...

Super review Laura of my "second favorite" Murphy Western,as you know HELL BENT FOR LEATHER is my all time fave and when are we going to get that on Blu Ray. Murphy's performance is amazing his chess playing gun for hire is one of the most complex characters in Western movies.I also love the way his character seems to have a coffee addiction-the ending of the film is amazing and ironic and I agree Charles Drake is excellent. I hope Kino treat us to a second Murphy set and a Joel McCrea Universal Western collection would be wonderful. Of the three Westerns Jack Arnold made (excluding the modern Western MAN IN THE SHADOW) the one that always gets overlooked is THE MAN FROM BITTER RIDGE-perhaps not up to "Bullet" and RED SUNDOWN but hugely entertaining all the same. Jack Arnold also directed a classic Rawhide episode with guest star Dean Martin no less.As always with Kino the transfers on this Murphy set are top notch. Also available from Kino recently is a stunning transfer of LONELY ARE THE BRAVE,I know Laura that you are not too keen on Kirk Douglas but this is the one picture that may change your mind. LONELY ARE THE BRAVE was Douglas' favorite of all his film and he admitted his lovely horse Whiskey stole the picture from him. The ending is a harrowing watch for horse lovers but LONELY ARE THE BRAVE is one Western every fan of the genre really should see. I really should take up shares in Kino the amount of bread I am spending with them at the moment but their wonderful tansfers always deliver.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Sadly I would be unable to buy this great-looking set as Kino BluRays are not region-free. However, I fully support both Laura's excellent review and view of Murphy's on-screen charisma and also John K's listing of probably (arguably) Audie's two best westerns.

I am not sure how Laura might deal with the ending of "LONELY ARE THE BRAVE" but this is a beautiful and classic modern-day western and I believe it is a film anyone who loves to watch man's relationship to his horse should make a point of seeing.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all so much for your comments!

Caftan Woman, really hope your daughter likes this one! Our eldest daughter doesn't watch a lot of Westerns but I suspect she would like this one.

John, thank you so much. I still need to catch up not only with HELL BENT FOR LEATHER but THE MAN FROM BITTER RIDGE; definitely looking forward to both. Enjoyed all your thoughts.

I suspect, thanks to the insights here from both you and Jerry, that LONELY ARE THE BRAVE would be too much for me -- I'm sensitive when it comes to animal movies. :) I'll keep it in mind, though, in order to learn more about it and see if I should consider it in the future. On the other hand, given both of your feelings about HELL BENT FOR LEATHER, I'm definitely enthused to watch it!

Hope many more people will enjoy this terrific Audie Murphy film thanks to Kino Lorber!

Best wishes,

7:43 PM  

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