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The wife of marshal Matt Morgan is raped and murdered. The killers leave behind a distinctive saddle, that Morgan recognises as belonging to his old friend Craig Belden, now cattle baron in the town of Gun Hill. Belden is sympathetic, until it transpires that one of the murderers is his own son Rick, whom he refuses to hand over. Morgan is determined to capture Rick and take him away by the 9.00 train; but he is trapped in the town alone, with Belden and all his men now looking to kill him. Written by
David Levene <D.S.Levene@durham.ac.uk>
Excellent classic western with too little attention
Some say Rio Bravo, some the Searchers, some Shane for some reason. Everyone has an opinion about what the greatest 'classic' western (before the '60s when Leone and Peckinpah broke the old myths) is. I would have said High Noon for a while ago. Then I was home last evening, at a very cold and snowy winter day. I thought to look at a movie from TV and didn't care much what they were showing. It happened to be this masterpiece. And I was awe-struck.
The story tells about a sheriff (Kirk Douglas), whose Indian wife and a mother to his child is raped and murdered. He goes on to find the men who did it to the town of Gun Hill and finds out that the other of the men is the son of his old friend (Anthony Quinn). He has in time become the most powerful man of Gun Hill and won't let his son to be taken to the court for his actions.
This is a quite daring one for a fifties western. There's some blood and nudity here. And most of all, the sides aren't black and white, but rather shades of gray. The movie's most potent message is that you can't take a life, even a criminal, because there will be people who were close to him and his death will hurt them worse. Every life is valuable.
Kirk Douglas is good in the lead role. He bottles most of his emotions in, as probably anyone in his situation would. Better is Anthony Quinn, who essentially has to decide between his son and his best friend. He portrays anger, fear, anxiety and hopelessness great.
This became my favorite classic western. it's not Once Upon a Time in the West, but I loved to see so mature themes in such an old movie. It looks great too, they had wonderful set builders then.
***** The Best Part: The showdown at the Gun Hill railway station
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