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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Gun Fury" is a little colorful Western that was originally shown in
The film shows outdoor scenes, set against spectacular Arizona
Walsh introduced his main characters quickly:
Ben (Rock Hudson) is a California-bound settler interested only in the future He spent five years fighting somebody else's quarrel The woman he intends to marry is meeting him in Haynesville They will go on to his place from there
Jennifer Ballard (Donna Reed) has never been so happy She just can't believe that she is really with Ben She has waited for him so long
Frank Slayton (Phil Carey) is a ruthless 'Southern gentleman' who fought the war and saw 'his' world die For him, Jennifer brought back things he hadn't thought of in years: Richmond, the ladies in fancy dresses, garden parties, dances
Jess (Leo Gordon) was not trying to run things But he refused to let Slayton drag Miss Ballard along
Walsh's direction was simple, direct and muscular, wary of self-consciously picturesque or poetic camera angles Always a popular entertainer he was one of the more able, resilient and versatile Hollywood directors
It is not as rewarding to do a typical western story as it is to for an unusual story. Gun Fury has a conventional story but the screenplay , besides being adapted from a good novel by Kathleen George has to its credit Roy Huggins and Irving Wallace. Huggins directed and wrote the script of "Hangman's Knot" an excellent Randolph Scott western and Wallace became a famous writer later on. The film also has Raoul Walsh as the director and that is quite an asset. The scenery and color are outstanding, and the fact that the film was made originally in 3D gives it some interesting scenes like objects being thrown at the spectator, also arrows, stones, even a threatening snake. Donna Reed plays a southern lady who is going to marry Rock Hudson. She is kidnapped, Hudson is almost killed and goes after her with an Indian (Pat Hogan) and Leo Gordon (Tom Burgess). On the way they meet Estella (Roberta Haynes) who is in love with the bad guy (Phil Carey), but has been rejected by him. Haynes gives a good performance, but considering she plays a Mexican, her Spanish is far from perfect. The real star of the film, even though Hudson is quite good in his role is Phil Carey, great as Frank Clayton, a man with no morals, who is madly in love with Donna Reed. An entertaining, action packed western, enjoyable from the first to the last scene.
"I'm sick of violence and force," says Ben Warren, the rich young
rancher who is taking his fiancee Jennifer to California for their wedding.
Like most Americans of his generation, he served in the Civil War and was
disgusted by the slaughter. Now he is devoted to working his big spread and
marrying his beautiful girl (played by Donna Reed).
Unfortunately, the barren South West is not remote enough from recent history. Men have crossed the Rockies to escape from the bitterness back East, but they have carried their violence westwards with them.
The film is the story of a stagecoach holdup which turns into an abduction, then a manhunt. Ben Warren (Rock Hudson) sets off after the bad guys who kidnapped his bride-to-be, and pursues them across the Arizona desert.
A standard horse opera, "Gun Fury" contains no more than the average complement of guns and precious little fury. There are absurdities in the storyline, like the holdup with fake cavalry escort, and the ease with which the 'good guys' recover from seemingly mortal harm (Ben is shot dead, apparently, but then gets up and carries on as if nothing happened, and Jess is almost dead from sunstroke but quickly rallies and rides after Slayton). The trade of Jennifer for Jess is silly, not least because Jess would never want to rejoin Slayton's gang.
One directorial quirk exhibited by Raoul Walsh is the way in which any character who throws something (knife, rock, pottery) has a victim's-point-of-view cutaway inserted. The viewer is, for an instant, seemingly the target of the missile. The purpose of this oddity is to exploit the 3-D format in which the film was originally shot.
The only other talking point is the presence of Lee Marvin and Neville Brand as bad guys in Slayton's gang.
Verdict - workmanlike western, but nothing special
A rancher and a reformed outlaw pursue a band of kidnappers through the Arizona desert in a good western that never received its just due. Most of Rock Hudson's early films were westerns and he essays the role of a determined cowboy in fine style as he and Leo Gordon search for an outlaw band for very different reasons. The picture is strictly a pursuit and revenge western with colorful characters and scenery making an ordinary plot tense and exciting. Phil Carey and Donna Reed are major players here but are supported by great character actors such as Lee Marvin and Neville Brand. Carey is at his best as a glib but vain outlaw leader who covets betrothed Donna Reed for himself. Pat Hogan is good in his familiar role as an Indian and Roberta Haynes is tough and fiery as a spurned border mistress.
"Gun Fury" is a neat, leisurely-paced Columbia Western, originally shot in
3D, directed by Raoul Walsh. I was expecting something exciting or
exceptional like "Colorado Territory" or "Pursued". Instead it turns out to
be routine, ambling minor Western that just misses mediocrity. Rock Hudson
ably plays Ben Warren, a pacifist Civil War veteran whose fiancé (Donna
Reed) is kidnapped by an ex-Confederate villain & gang leader Frank Slayton
(Phil Carey) after a stagecoach holdup. Aided by one of the gang members
(Leo Gordon) and an Indian (Pat Hogan), Warren pursues Slayton and his gang
through several confrontations. Lee Marvin intriguingly plays Blinky, the
outlaw that later challenges Carey before Warren and his group show
Throughout "Gun Fury", Walsh does a nice job of contrasting Hudson's mild, freedom-loving mannerism with Carey's vicious, unalloyed sadism. There are also, as expected from Walsh, some nifty scenes of outdoor scenery in the reddish Arizona desert. Donna Reed and Rock Hudson are great together; Phil Carey does good job playing the villain. Overall, a nice little Western that is worth checking out.
This originally-filmed 3-D pot boiler features a darkly gorgeous Donna
partnering an equally handsome Rock Hudson- the latter displaying the
charisma he hid behind for most of his career. But the thing is, he's good
-and so's Donna. They play an engaged couple about to settle in California
at the end of the Civil War. Rock has the odd good line 'Bullets are
democratic- they don't only kill badmen' -no doubt an orphan from
scriptwriter Kathleen George's novel TEN AGAINST CEASAR on which movie was
based and a concept which would have found an echo in post-Korean and WWII
Ex-Confederate Army cronies' embitterment and discontent is the excuse for stagecoach robbery, murder and kidnapping. Ben Warren [Hudson] is left for dead and his fiancé Jennifer Ballard [Reed] snatched under the unlikely pretext that gang leader Frank Slayton [Phil Carey] fancies her. The later elemental suggestion of suppressed carnality is best left as it was -suppressed. Donna Reed, despite torn blouse -is Rock's girl, and she remains so. Doesn't the Phil Carey know how things in Westerns work out? The plot of George's novel, TEN AGAINST CAESAR has been uncomplicated to a degree where an orangutan, given five seconds and a paintbrush, could have written the subsequence and denouement.
But credibility is not what this movie is all about.
It's about how parted Rock and Donna are re-united and triumph over -albeit manufactured -adversity ; it's about searing Arizona desert; the magnificence of 1950 Technicolor Western-making, and perhaps most of all about the making of desolation beautiful. I remember its flat screen release as a kid, was dying to see it but couldn't afford the admission. Had I seen it then I know how I would have reacted - I would have considered it good value and left the cinema, six-gun at the ready, seeking a showdown.
Beautiful looking western in dazzling Technicolor is otherwise an ordinary affair but does have Rock Hudson and Donna Reed both on the cusp of bigger things. Donna made From Here to Eternity the same year as this and although it didn't really enhance her movie fortunes it raised her fame level easing her transition to TV fame as the perfect homemaker. Rock would break out of the B's the next year with Magnificent Obsession that turned him into box office gold for years. This film does have a good pace and a hissable villain in Phil Carey plus an early peek at Lee Marvin. For western fans or admirers of the stars this should be an enjoyable view.
Gun Fury marked the first loan out film that Rock Hudson did after he
became a star at Universal. Rock did this one for Columbia just as his
star was rising fast with the movie going public.
The film has the look and feel of a Randolph Scott western, it's just the kind of story that Scott was in fact doing at Columbia with Budd Boetticher. I would not be surprised if this wasn't something Scott might have had in mind for himself. Of course there would have been changes made as Scott was a much older man than the youthful Rock Hudson.
Donna Reed is Hudson's fiancé who is on a stagecoach west to meet her man. On the stage also is notorious outlaw Philip Carey traveling incognito because he plans to meet up with his gang and rob the stage later.
Carey is best known as the boss of those exuberant Texas Rangers in Laredo, but here he's a bad man, rotten through and through. He also decided to take Donna Reed as well because he's tired of the woman he has now, Roberta Haynes.
Carey thinks he's killed Hudson, but Hudson's quite alive and on his trail with a former Carey outlaw member Leo Gordon along with him.
Gun Fury shows how much the western grew up in the Fifties. This kind of story involving kidnapping and sexual abuse was definitely not for the Saturday matinée kiddie trade. Though Hudson and Reed are good, it's Philip Carey who really dominates the film.
He's got quite a collection of noted screen bad guys in his crew. Besides Leo Gordon, Neville Brand and Lee Marvin are also around.
Can't tell you how it ends, but Hudson and Gordon pick up an Indian along the way who proves to be of great assistance.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Despite being released in what was arguably the greatest decade for the
Hollywood Western--the 1950s--and being helmed by one of the greatest
action-film directors of that era--Raoul Walsh--1953's "Gun Fury"
ultimately reveals itself to be merely a very good--not a great--motion
picture. In the film, pacifist rancher Ben Warren (a hunky, 28-year-old
Rock Hudson) reunites with his fiancée, Jennifer Ballard (a very
beautiful, 32-year-old Donna Reed), at a dusty Nowheresville in
Arizona. Trouble soon erupts, when notorious bandit Frank Slayton (Phil
Carey) and his gang rob their stagecoach, shoot Ben down and, leaving
him presumed dead, kidnap his bride-to-be, causing Ben, naturally, to
put those pacifist feelings aside and take to the ol' vengeance trail.
But, as had Gary Cooper three years earlier in "High Noon," Ben finds
it extremely difficult to enlist aid for his dangerous cause;
ultimately, only three people--Tom Burgess (an excellent Leo Gordon),
Slayton's No. 2, who Slayton had earlier tied up for the vultures; an
Indian named Johash, whose people Slayton had slaughtered; and a
Mexican hot tamale, Stella, who Slayton had dumped--come forward to
ride with Ben and take a bloody vengeance....
"Gun Fury" has, to its credit, many commendable attributes. The acting in the film is uniformly fine; I especially liked Leo Gordon here, as the former "bad guy" who helps Ben out. (He is given the picture's most amusing line: "All women are alike...they just have different faces so you can tell them apart.") The film features the typically sturdy direction that was Walsh's calling card, and sports a good deal of physical beauty, too. No, I'm not referring to Ms. Reed here, although she DOES look mighty fine, but rather to the gorgeous Arizona location shooting, enhanced by luscious Technicolor. The movie LOOKS fantastic, and this breathtaking backdrop can only have been more striking on the big screen and in 3-D, as the picture was originally shown. The film moves along briskly and with purpose, and ends with an exciting siege shoot-out and a (literally) cliffhanging dukeout between the principals. So what's the problem?
Well, for one thing, too many of the supporting characters are underdeveloped, especially Slayton gang members Blinky and Brazos, played, respectively, by the great Lee Marvin and Neville Brand. Granted, both men were just recently starting out in their careers in 1953 and were more character actors than leading men at this point, but still, a little character differentiation would have been nice. Johash and Stella are stock types, at best; Johash almost laughably so. And Donna Reed's character is a bit too wimpy and meek; a little more spirit from Jennifer would have been preferable to her near-total submissiveness to the Slayton gang. (Perhaps I'm being a bit too harsh here, but having just seen the remarkably feisty spitfire that Eleanor Parker portrays in the 1955 Western "Many Rivers To Cross," I can only imagine what havoc SHE would have caused among Slayton's men!) Other problems: Those 3-D effects (a leaping rattler, a thrown knife, flying hooves, and hurled rocks, branches and pots) look pretty silly when watched on the 2-D small screen (strangely, the eye-patched Walsh probably couldn't even see his film in 3-D), and the film's many night scenes don't look nearly as spectacular as the ones filmed under the desert sun; indeed, they are way too dark, especially for home viewing. Finally, the film concludes a bit too abruptly for this viewer's tastes. Still, despite all, "Gun Fury" certainly does manage to please; Raoul Walsh couldn't make a dull picture if he tried. No, it's not in the same league as the director's "High Sierra," "Objective, Burma!" or "White Heat" (then again, how many pictures are?), but remains a perfectly acceptable entertainment nevertheless....
Gun Fury is directed by Raoul Walsh and stars Rock Hudson, Donna Reed,
Phillip Carey, Roberta Haynes, Leo Gordon, Lee Marvin & Neville Brand.
It's adapted from the novel Ten Against Caesar written by Kathleen B.
George & Robert A. Granger. Cinematographer is Lester White, with
Sedona, Arizona used for the location work. It is a Technicolor
production out of Columbia Pictures.
Plot sees Hudson as Civil War veteran Ben Warren, who after meeting up with Jennifer (Reed), the girl he is soon to marry, catches the stage to Haynesville. But little do they know that two of the passengers (Carey & Gordon) that are travelling with them are outlaws who are after the strongbox on board the coach. Once the hold-up occurs a fight breaks out and during the mêlée Ben is shot and presumed dead . The outlaws flee taking Jennifer with them. But Ben is not dead, and now he's after them. Having recently turned pacifist, just what will he do to get his love back unharmed?.
Originally presented in 3-D on its release, Gun Fury is a brisk Western that unsurprisingly given it's director's keen eye for such things, isn't found wanting for action. However, for depth of story and character studies, it's not one too get excited about. Which is a shame because there's definitely scope within the plot to expand some of the protagonists psychological themes. Still, if one is after a quick fix of Western action staples then this serves its purpose. Gun play, horse pursuits and even fist fights in the water, Walsh delivers pulse raising scenes set in amongst the gorgeous back drops of Sedona. But be warned, the finale is some what tepid and doesn't do justice to what had gone before it.
Cast wise Hudson is solid enough but is blown off the screen by both Carey & Gordon. While Reed is attractive and professional in what is a pretty undemanding role. In the support cast there's the added bonus of having tough guys Marvin & Brand playing villains. The score from uncredited Arthur Morton & Mischa Bakaleinikoff links the narrative well enough, and there's some fun to be had with the 3-D moments as various items are launched at the screen. So a safe time filler for Western fans then, but it could, and should, have been much more. 6/10
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