Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gun The Man Down

John Wayne produced the 1956 western GUN THE MAN DOWN for his Batjac Productions. Filmed after GUNSMOKE’s first season on CBS, GUN THE MAN DOWN was the last feature film of James Arness’ career, one of the first for 25-year-old Angie Dickinson, who receives an “Introducing” credit, and the first for director Andrew V. McLaglen, who had been an assistant director on several Wayne films.

Arness plays Remington Anderson, one of three bandits who rob a bank, during which a teller is shot. He’s wounded and left behind by his partners Rankin (Robert Wilke) and Farley (Don Megowan), who also take his girlfriend Janice (Dickinson) as a hostage. After recovering and serving a one-year prison sentence, Rem sets out for revenge, finding his fellow crooks—and Janice, who’s now shaking up with Rankin—in a small town presided over by avuncular sheriff Morton (Emile Meyer).

Story and screenplay by Sam Freedle and Burt Kennedy, respectively, are standard B-western stuff. McLaglen shot quickly without much money (the town is bereft of extras) and without much action to punctuate the limp cat-and-mouse shenanigans. Arness shows little in terms of big-screen charisma, though one can’t deny he’s one of TV’s greatest leading men. Also with Michael Emmet, Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, and Harry Carey Jr. as the deputy. I think everyone in the movie except Meyer guest-starred on GUNSMOKE at least once, and McLaglen directed 96 episodes.

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