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Much More Like HIGH NOON Than A Comedy, Despite Its Title
Sometimes, a film's title makes it seem like something it really isn't. Take for instance the 1974 made-for-TV western SHOOTOUT IN A ONE-DOG TOWN. With a title like that, you'd expect this to be a sagebrush comedy. And since it is directed by the same veteran Western director, Burt Kennedy, who did the classic Western comedies SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF in 1969, and SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL GUNFIGHTER in 1971, those expectations are doubled.
But sometimes expectations are made to be broken, and this is one of those times. In this film, Richard Crenna portrays a banker in a sun-baked Western town who is given the unenviable task of safe-guarding a $200,000 deposit after the courier (Michael Ansara) carrying the money gets wounded in an attempted trail robbery. Crenna agrees, despite the objections of the townspeople who don't feel like getting involved in a potentially deadly and destructive situation as the shooters, led by Richard Egan, move into town trying to get their hands on the stash.
With a screenplay by Dick Nelson and Larry Cohen (the latter whom also wrote the script for Kennedy's RETURN OF THE SEVEN in 1966, and later wrote and directed the 1974 horror classic IT'S ALIVE), and being produced by Richard Lyons (who also produced the 1962 Sam Peckinpah classic RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY), SHOOTOUT IN A ONE DOG TOWN, again title and director notwithstanding, has much more in common with films like HIGH NOON, LAWMAN, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, and even THE WILD BUNCH, in its adherence to a suspense motif and its themes of standing up to adversity. Crenna does a fine job as the Everyman of the piece, and Stefanie Powers is also good as his wife. The film is also marked with appearances by a number of Western film veterans: Jack Elam (as the town sheriff); Gene Evans; Michael Anderson Jr.; and Dub Taylor. Also notable is the solid cinematography of Robert Hauser, who worked on films like A MAN CALLED HORSE and SOLDIER BLUE, and the fact that the film was made in one of the many Western town sets around Durango, Mexico.
Even though it was clearly not made with a big budget, this 1974 western is in need of a revival and restoration on DVD, given the sterling director, cast, and suspense-laden story.
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