In the western frontier town of Cross Creek storekeeper George Temple is a polite and soft spoken man with a secret past.When three bank robbers on the lam stop in town to change horses George Temple's past comes back to haunt him.
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Whenever it becomes known how good he is with guns, ex-gunman George and his wife Dora have to flee the town, in fear of all the gunmen who might want to challenge him. Unfortunately he again spills his secret when he's drunk. All citizens swear to keep his secret and support him to give up his guns forever -- but a boy tells the story to a gang of wanted criminals. Their leader threatens to burn down the whole town, if he doesn't duel him. Written by
Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>
The Fastest Gun Alive is directed by Russell Rouse and is adapted by Rouse and Frank D. Gilroy from a Gilroy story titled The Last Notch. It stars Glenn Ford, Jeanne Crain, Broderick Crawford, Russ Tamblyn, Allyn Joslyn, Leif Erickson, John Dehner and Noah Beery Junior. A black and white production out of MGM, it's photographed by George J. Folsey and features music by André Previn.
The town of Cross Creek is home to a very mild man named George Temple (Ford), there he runs the local store and lives in peaceful harmony with his wife Dora (Crain). Then one day the town hears news of how outlaw Vinnie Harold (Crawford) has gunned down Clint Fallon, the once thought of fastest gunman alive. It's not long before the talk of other fast guns dominates discussion, with George becoming increasingly agitated at how the town people view him as meek and mild. With his pride hurt, George sets about dispelling some myths about fast gunmen and his own current persona. With that comes trouble, big trouble for everyone in Cross Creek when Vinnie Harold rolls into town.
By the time of The Fastest Gun Alive's release, the psychological Western was in full flow. Anthony Mann had blazed the trail with his genre defining run of Western's that he made with James Stewart, the last of which would be in 1955 with The Man From Laramie. From there the torch would be picked up with some aplomb by the pairing of Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott, who began with Seven Men From Now in this same year as The Fastest Gun Alive. Away from those genre legends, many directors were turning their hands to more adult/serious Western's, some successful, some not so and some which have been forgotten, rightly or wrongly, for various reasons, when the subject of psychological Western's arises. Probably on account of it's lower tier director, The Fastest Gun Alive is the latter.
The title actually doesn't help the film, it immediately conjures up images of a man creating death with his whippy pistols. Suffice to say it isn't that sort of film, and those that have previously been lured in by the title, have no doubt felt a little short changed. Rouse's movie is more concerned with mood and the psychology of the principal players in Gilroy's story. Both Ford and Crawford's characters are driven by motives, that although different, inevitably means a collision is unavoidable. But the story isn't just about these two men, it takes time to involve loved ones and the people of the town, all are involved and as it turns out, all are key elements as to why the film is a character driven little gem. While what action there is is competently handled by the director, notably the finale that also comes with an unbearable precursor of tension.
What problems there are in the picture are thankfully only minor. Crawford is just a touch too much one note, but such is his hulking frame he looks the part of a brutish bully and he gets away with it. Tamblyn is seriously out of place, almost as much as his dance number is! It's skillful and delightful: if only it were in the right movie. For it shifts the tone of the film downwards and you have to wonder who made the ridiculous decision to include it in the film. But away from those issues it's all good. Crain looks stunning and plays emotive worry with ease, while Dehner does a nice line in shifty side-kick. But it's Ford who takes the honours, either playing it as a tortured soul who's emotionally conflicted, or as a man who is genuinely scared, Ford convinces and draws the audience into the unfolding drama.
Forget any notion of a stereotype suggested by the film's title and enjoy the atypical way in which the movie deals with its characters. This is a good un, very much so. 8/10
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