The peace-loving owner of a general store, who became a town hero when he luckily killed the leader of a gang of bank robbers, is deserted by the townspeople who fear the threatened return of the vengeful bandits.
A New Mexico Town Marshal, Clay Morgan, known as 'Black Patch' since he had lost an eye in the Civil War, takes his job seriously, especially after an old friend, Hank Danner, arrives in ... See full summary »
Allen H. Miner
Zeb Smith is a gambler with a larcenous streak, but when an itinerant preacher takes a bullet meant for him, Zeb vows to fulfill the preacher's mission of building a church. Frustrated in ... See full summary »
The Dennis gang wants to rob the bank of the sleepy peaceful town of Plainview, Texas. Small town banks like this one have less money than large city banks but they're easy prey. Barlow, the gang's contact in town, assures them that Plainview only has an old marshal, Pete MacKay, who shouldn't pose any problem. The gang heads to Plainview. In town, storekeeper Jack Wright runs his store with wife Martha and brother-in-law Wally. Marshal MacKay and doctor Lacey are playing chess inside the store. Jack Wright makes his daily deposit at the bank and then returns to the store. The Dennis gang arrives and robs the bank, killing a teller and the alerted marshal. In the street, storekeeper Jack Wright picks the dead marshal's gun up and shoots fleeing robber Alvin Dennis, from a great distance. Townsman George Henderson finishes Alvin off with a shotgun. The bandit drops the loot and the bank recovers it. The townsfolk proclaim Jack Wright and George Henderson to be heroes. Storekeeper Jack ... Written by
Joel McCrea was originally cast as Jack Wright. See more »
[Bob Dennis is practicing aiming and firing his gun]
You're sure itchin' to use that thing again, ain't ya?
Never hurts to be ready.
You're always ready. Put it away.
You're nervous, huh?
Yeah, well, I wouldn't be if it wasn't for you.
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Jack Wright? For some reason or other that name sounds familiar.
The Dennis gang ride into the town of Plainview and set about robbing the bank. However, during their escape Alvin Dennis (John Pickard) is shot and killed by a one in a million lucky shot by mild mannered store keeper Jack Wright (Fred MacMurray). Further compounding the gang's misery is that Alvin was carrying the money and so the town have managed to reclaim what was briefly taken from them. Jack, in spite of his protestations, is hailed a hero by all and sundry, even picking up a substantial reward. But led by a hate filled Bob Dennis (Skip Homeier), the Dennis gang are plotting revenge and have Jack firmly in their sights. Jack is about to find out just who his friends are in the fickle town of Plainview.
Yeah yeah yeah, At Gunpoint is for sure a variation on the High Noon theme, and yes it proudly stands in its pulpit sermonising a moralistic viewpoint. Its central theme one that has been used a number of times in Westerns both prior and post this Allied Artists Pictures release. But so what? If a story, and the potent universal messages at its core, is worth telling, then tell it. As long as it's told well and not bogged down by poor technical aspects, then that surely is enough for the discerning genre fan? At Gunpoint is directed by Alfred L. Werker and is written by prolific Western story teller Daniel B. Ullman. It's a Technicolor/CinemaScope production with Ellsworth Fredericks on photography duties, and the wonderfully named Carmen Dragon provides a bracing score. Supporting MacMurray and Homeier are Dorothy Malone as Jack's increasingly fretful wife, Walter Brennan as a loyal Doctor friend who likes a tipple, while Whit Bissell is a welcome secondary character addition.
So many good things to recommend here, it may be a simple fable, but it's lit up by high quality acting and thrives on the moody atmosphere constructed by Werker. MacMurray was always hit and miss, particularly in the Western genre, but when he got it right, or perhaps when he had an understanding director? He was real value for money. Such is the case here. His Jack Wright is an honest man reluctantly put up on a pedestal, thus he quickly becomes a scared man. Naturally fearful for his wife and child, he doesn't hide that he himself is no hero, and has no wish to become one. MacMurray perfectly plays it restrained, thus it is heartfelt and believable. Homeier was always best when playing a snarly villain and here he delivers just that, a villain hell bent on revenge, an avenging brother whose actions speak louder than words. Werker was an old pro, a jobber director, and here he was coming to the end of a career that would span 32 years. He offers up some nice tonal delights here. Witness the dusty storm that descends upon Plainview, it coincides with the town residents having a change of attitude. Then there's his framing of the Dennis gang as they come for revenge, it's impossible not to think of them as the four horsemen of the apocalypse. While the final shoot out, and the twist in the horse tail, is awash with tension and crowned by a remarkable bit of stunt work. This a fine film that belies its "B" movie roots. One that will hopefully find more fans as the years roll by. 8/10
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