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Fighting in the Civil War a man accidently kills his friend. Returning to Abilene after the war he finds his former sweetheart about to marry the brother of the man he killed. To pay his debt he not only refuses to win her back but takes the job of Sheriff, a job he doesn't want, when the brother asks him. Still haunted by the killing he refuses to carry a gun. But there is trouble between the ranchers and the farmers and when he finds the brother murdered he straps on a gun and heads after the killer. Written by
Maurice VanAuken <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When the whipped Cord is on his horse and Cal is trying to catch him, the man from a distance has blood smeared all over his back, but up close after being caught, Cord's back only has dried blood stripes and no smears. See more »
Though only 11 years had elapsed since the release of "Showdown at Abilene," Universal re-made this under the title "Gunfight in Abilene" with, surprisingly, Bobby Darin taking over the Jock Mahoney role. It's an unexpected casting which does not pay off since Darin seems out of place in a western and he's simply too small and modest to be the kind of tough lawman who could "clean up" a frontier town. In some scenes, he looks even shorter than leading lady, Emily Banks, and whereas Mahoney appeared on the balcony of the Abilene hotel gloriously bare-chested -- showing off his impressive physique but wearing his pants high enough to hide his navel -- Darin plays this same scene with his shirt on though open a bit at the top. (When Darin wakes up from a nightmare in a brief and dimly-lit scene, however, he's bare-chested whereas Mahoney, in a comparable scene, wears an undershirt.) On the plus side, Darin did contribute a song, "Amy," which is sung under the opening credits and which, though undistinguished, is pleasant enough and which today -- due to a decline in movie-song-writing quality -- might win an Oscar.
The triangular relationship among Jock Mahoney, Lyle Bettger, and Martha Hyer which strengthened the original movie is still of interest here but one can't quite believe that Bobby Darin and Leslie Nielsen had once been close friends.
Though this re-make follows the original quite closely, there are two notable changes. This version begins with a Civil War battle sequence showing Bobby Darin accidentally shooting a friend. Thus the audience knows from the start why the guilt-stricken Darin is reluctant to carry a gun when he returns to Abilene and why he feels he owes a debt to the dead friend's brother. When Darin later confesses the truth to Nielsen, his remarks lack the impact they had in the original version when the audience did NOT know what had happened back in the Civil War battle.
The other change is also questionable. In the new version there's a young blonde woman in Abilene who has a crush on Darin and who pops up in a few scenes. This character does not appear in the original version and she adds nothing to the story.
The re-make is superior to the original in two respects, however. Donnelly Rhodes makes a much more convincing "bad guy" than Ted de Corsia, and Michael Sarrazin's whipping is more effectively staged than Grant Williams' whipping in the 1956 version. Sarrazin is stripped of his shirt and subjected to more punishment and taunts than Williams who, for some inexplicable reason, is allowed to keep his shirt on while being flogged, even though he has a pleasing physique -- as was proved in "The Incredible Shrinking Man" -- and even though Universal had begun to groom him for his "hunk" appeal.
Finally, all the character names from the 1956 version have been changed for the 1967 one.
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