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When his life is saved in a shootout by a fellow gunman whose life he in turn had saved, Alex Longmire promises to give up his way of life. Riding into town he finds the only job available is deputy to sheriff Jade Murphy, an honest man caught between small farmers and a local cattle baron. And he has a pretty daughter. So Longmire decides to stay and see if he can use his expertise with firearms for good. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Fighting fire with fire - gunslinger with gunslinger.
Red Sundown is directed by Jack Arnold and written by Martin Berkeley. It stars Rory Calhoun, Martha Hyer, Dean Jagger, Robert Middleton, James Millican, Lita Baron and Grant Williams. Music is by Hans J. Salter and cinematography by William Snyder.
Gunslinger Alec Longmire (Calhoun) decides to honour a promise and change his ways. Arriving in Durango he quickly gets the opportunity to put his skills to good use when he becomes deputy to Sheriff Jade Murphy (Jagger), the latter of which is struggling to control the despotic behaviour of cattle baron Rufus Henshaw (Middleton).
A promise made. A new life
From the higher end of 1950s Western programmers, Red Sundown couples the action and character staples with smart writing. From the off the pic signals its intentions by pushing some machismo front and centre, only to then add some sombre tones and rueful dialogue smarts. The whole story has something worthwhile to say, some keen observations. Not all gunslingers are the same, some enjoy the killing, some do it by necessity, but the message is clear, don't tar all with the same brush. Another thread deals with impressionable youngsters, where again some smart dialogue is afforded the principal player. There's a code issue that I hadn't heard of before as regards the weapon of choice in a stand-off, and there's some nasty bite that comes by way of how Henshaw treats his mistress, Maria (Baron).
If a man wants to get away from guns then he should get away from them.
As the shoot-outs and stand-offs come and go, as Martha Hyer arrives in a bullet brassiere, story settles into the common good versus bad theme, with a little romance on the side. It's despot and his hired thug, Chet Swann (Williams), against the honest sheriff and his reformed deputy. Arnold keeps things fizzing along nicely and he's well served by his lead cast members, with Calhoun, Middleton and Jagger particularly impressing. Hyer does well with what is a thankless female role, while Williams, who would become The Incredible Shrinking Man a year later, is only just on the right side of lunatic caricature.
Bonus here, though with much sadness, is Millican, who puts in a heart aching performance as a gunman whose time is ebbing away. Millican was dying of cancer at the time and wouldn't see the film released. Poignancy added to what is a film; that while it's far from flawless, earns the right to be better known. 7.5/10
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