Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Revenge, Regret, Possible Retirement

Gun The Man Down is a mid-50s B-western. I'd say it's most notable for featuring James Arness, right around the time Gunsmoke was starting, and Angie Dickinson before Rio Bravo. Arness was part of a three-man gang, and he was wounded during a bank robbery. The other two guys, Matt and Ralph, leave him behind and take Janice (Dickinson), who was dating Rem, along with them. Rem refuses to say who his compadres were, because he wants to hunt them down himself. A year in jail later, he gets his chance.

It's an 80 minute movie, and at least an hour of it is Arness in the town his old pals have set up shop in, letting them sweat and try to find some way out. There was a brief scene where he meets a gun-for-hire who tips him off where to go, that I thought was simply going to be filler, or a cheap way to get Rem from point A to point B. But the bad guys ultimately hire Mr. Billy Deal to try and deal with Rem, which leads to this long scene of Billy slowly moving through town, looking for Rem. It's shot so that scenes of Billy (with townspeople scurrying out of the way), are alternated with Matt, Ralph, and Janice waiting tensely in their saloon, following Billy's progress by the sounds of his spurs. I think it goes over the line from being effective to overly drawn out, but it's a good attempt.

There's of course a subplot about Janice and Rem, whether she actually loved him, if she still loves him, that sort of thing. Prior to meeting Rem, Janice had been a dance hall girl/con artist, but she had been ready to settle down with Rem as a rancher's wife. Partway through, my sympathies were against Rem, because he did seem to judge her, to treat it as "That's the kind of girl you are,", while Matt seemed understanding of the things Janice had done to survive as a young woman alone in the West. Of course, then Matt twists it to undermine her sense of self-worth, that she's just in it for money, same as him, and if she tries to get high and mighty and walk away from him now, she'll end up in the same place with another man soon enough. So that's an abuser approach of, "you don't deserve anyone better than me", so no winner there. But Janice did point out that while Rem wanted to be a rancher, a theoretically reputable position, he wanted to get the money for it by robbing a bank and ruining the lives of a bunch of innocent townspeople. Little absurd for him to be scowling at her for taking the easy route.

And watching all this is a sheriff who I can't quite figure out. He doesn't like what Matt and Ralph have done to his town, because booze and gambling are awful, everyone should just sit in their shitty homes and read the Bible by candlelight I guess, but if Rem kills them, he's still going to arrest him. But he's still giving Rem a lot of signals that he won't mind them being gone. I think he's supposed to be principled, in that Matt hadn't done anything illegal so he couldn't be thrown out, regardless of the sheriff's feelings, but it feels a little crooked. Like he really wants the dirty work done in such a way his hands are clean.


SallyP said...

I do love Westerns. Although it's a little hard to know who to root for in this one.

CalvinPitt said...

Yeah, there are a lot of Westerns like that, I think.