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USA 1955
Directed by
Richard Wilson
83 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Man With The Gun

Although an evidently low budget production typical of Hollywood B Westerns of the time and featuring many stock character actors like Henry Hull  and Claude Akins, Man with the Gun features an unusually well-developed lead character in the form of Robert Mitchum’s Clint Tollinger a “town tamer” who has come to a backwater called Sheridan which is in the pocket of Dade Holman (Joe Barry), a cattle baron whose hirelings have the denizens terrified.  Tollinger has actually come to see his estranged wife, Nelly Bain (Jan Sterling), and  to find out what happened to his young daughter. Nelly runs the “entertainment”at the Palace Hotel run by Holman associate ‘Frenchy' Lescaux (Ted DeCorsia, another regular stock player of the time). The town council hire Tollinger to wrest the town back from Holman which he does while battling with his demons.

Man with a Gun was the first directorial role for Wilson who began his artistic career as radio actor for Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre.  Photographed in black and white by Lee Garmes and largely filmed on a small purpose-built lot, the cheap production values hamper verisimilitude whilst the commercial function of Nelly’s girls is unfortunately bowdlerized in the 1950s manner.  For all that there is an unusual level of attention given to psychological motivation, the screenplay by the director with N.B. Stone Jr. giving us a protagonist in Tollinger who was both traumatized as a child by the murder of his unarmed father by ranchers just like Holman and who is now trying to come to terms with the fact that his choice of profession has cost him his wife and daughter. All of this Mitchum portrays in his characteristically phlegmatic manner.  

FYI: Wilson revisited the “town tamer” theme with  Invitation to a Gunfighter in 1964 whilst Michael Winner re-worked this film as Lawman (1971) with Burt Lancaster in the Mitchum role

Available from: Shock Entertainment




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