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Guy Presscott should have left well enough alone because he decided to gun down marshal Lane Chandler on the street of his town. He also had his deputy Sterling Hayden in mind, but Hayden got one of Presscott's henchmen instead. After that Presscott goes about his usual villainy which includes selling guns to the Apaches.
Presscott took on the first mission because he blamed Chandler and Hayden for a stretch in prison. He should have nailed Hayden when he had a chance because now Hayden has a mission, to avenge the killing of the man who had rescued him from outlaw life.
Along the way Hayden picks up as traveling companions mixed racial Yvonne DeCarlo and cynical bounty hunter Zachary Scott. It's not a harmonious trio by any means. Scott has some really good lines in this film and gives one of his best screen performances.
The film has some beautiful Arizona scenery as it was shot in the desert country of Sedona. The final encounter with Hayden and Presscott features something I've never seen before or since in a western, a duel with shotguns. Really unique and original.
Try not to miss this one if it's broadcast.
Basically, "Shotgun" is a revenge-themed western. Clay Hardin (Sterling Hayden of "Top Gun") hits the trail after the dastards who murdered Hardin's mentor, Marshal Mark Fletcher (Lane Chandler of "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars"), in cold blood. Now, you can understand why Clay not only totes a shotgun in addition to his other firearms, but also why the movie draws its title from a firearm. The villainous Ben Thompson (Guy Prescott of "The Tall Stranger") and Bentley (Robert J. Wilke of "The Magnificent Seven"), ride into town and await Fletcher in the local saloon. Thompson hates both Fletcher and Clay because they sent him to prison for six years. If this weren't bad enough, Thompson plans to run contraband Winchester repeating rifles to the Apaches. As Fletcher approaches the saloon, Thompson gives him both shotgun barrels in the belly. Against opposition from a girl, Aletha (Angela Greene of "Cinderella Jones"), who had arranged for Clay to take a white-collar job, Clay chases Thompson. He catches up with Bentley who had quit riding with Thompson. The scene where Clay finds Bentley staked out in the scorching sun is pretty gritty. You see, the sadistic Indians have tied Bentley down to earth with shrinking leather straps. Eventually, Bentley will be drawn up to within striking distance of the grand-daddy of all rattlesnakes while a helpless woman, Abby (Yvonne De Carlo of "McLintock!"), struggles against her own restraints. The Native Americans have tied her to a scrub tree nearby to watch Bentley's agonizing demise. Later, Abby admits that she hasn't led the most luminous of lives as a dance-hall gal. Predictably, Clay rescues them, cutting Abby loose first and savoring Bentley's predicament long enough to make the villain really squirm in terror.
Not long after Clay saves Bentley's bacon, the ungrateful desperado gets the drop on him. Unfortunately, for poor Bentley, he makes a mistake and Clay plugs him. Down the river drifts Bentley's body. Later, an Indian retrieves the sodden corpse and takes it to Thompson. Meantime, as Clay and Abby are getting up from a night on the range, they hear galloping horses and spot a white rider pursued by a swarm of angry redskins. Clay knocks a couple out of the saddle and winds up saving the rider from losing his scalp. The grateful rider, Reb Carlton (Zachary Scott of "Mildred Pierce") is a loquacious bounty hunter. In the 1950s' westerns, bounty hunters constituted the scourge of the earth and in a later gunfight Clay complains to Reb about his predilection for shooting men in the back. At one point along the trail, Reb makes some disparaging remarks about Abby as she hides in the brush to freshen up, and Clay beats him to a pulp and nearly drowns in the river for his salacious comments. Abby has to wade into the water to restrain Clay. Thompson and his two gunmen hit a stagecoach relay station and Thompson leaves them behind to prepare a lead reception for Clay.
Clay and Reb gun down Thompson's two men, while the outlaw heads off to the Indian camp to palaver with Delgadito (Paul Marion of "Fort Vengeance") who is impatient about the Winchesters that Thompson has promised him. Meanwhile, Clay leaves Reb and Abby at station. Abby has grown attached to Clay. She persuades Reb to take her to him before Clay gets to Thompson. Reb savors the prospect of catching up with Thompson for the bounty. Clay threatens to kill Reb if he doesn't take Abby back. Reb malingers on the trail with Abby and Apaches jump them. After roping Reb to a tree, they skewer him with an arrow and leave him to die. The redskins abduct Abby. Clay rides into Delgadito's camp. The Indians arrange things so that Thompson and Clay have to blast it out in a duel with shotguns on horseback. Predictably, Thompson cuts loose first and shoots Clay's horse. When Thompson tries to flee, Delgadito kills him with a lance.
"Shotgun" gets marginally violent at intervals for a 1950s' western. Selander keeps the action moving along in this sturdy oater without any interference. The Clay and Abby romance is held to a minimum. The lean Hayden makes a rugged protagonist with De Carlo around for eye candy. Slippery-tongued Zachery Scott excels as a no-good bounty hunter who has to commit suicide rather than suffer a slow, torturous death. Selander doesn't waste time with philosophical messages and the characterization is rudimentary. Nevertheless, western fans should find this 80-minute, Technicolor oater worth its time.
Standard revenge themed Oater set amongst the beautiful back drop of Sedona in Arizona. Story follows a familiar trajectory. Ben Thompson (Prescott) hits town after a long stint in jail, he's after the blood of the lawmen who put him there. When tragedy strikes during this act of revenge, Marshal Clay Hardin (Hayden) sets off in pursuit. Out on the trail he will acquire companionship in the form of saddle tramp Abby (DeCarlo) and bounty hunter Reb Carlton (Scott). A pressure cooker atmosphere is generated between the three of them as we head towards the finale where the Apache join the fray and truth, justice and consequence will out.
Selander was an old pro at the Western game, unfortunately in this instance his inexperience with "tougher" themed Oaters shows. It is all very workmanlike and he fails to rein in DeCarlo's overacting and ignite a flame in Hayden who is in one of his "I'm only doing it for the money" moods. However, spurts of violence are handled efficiently enough to liven up the middle third when the picture threatens to sink into a boorish pot of beans. There's also a nice twist on the duel formula at film's end, with machismo and tricks showing a hand to reward the patient. It isn't a must see for Western fans, and frustrations reside within, but there's enough to keep it above average. Sometimes beautiful scenery and Sterling Hayden riding into an Apache camp with muscles flexed is enough to pass the time of day with. And so it proves here. 6.5/10