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Friday, April 5, 2013

The Last of the Fast Guns (1958)


Dir: George Sherman - Cast: Jock Mahoney, Gilbert Roland, Lorne Greene, Linda Cristal, Eduard Franz, Carl-Benton Reid, Eduardo Noriega, Lee Morgan

Gunman Brad Ennison will be thirty next month, but in his profession, thirty is a respectable age; he therefore gladly accepts the offer of a rich man in a wheelchair, John Forbes, to track down the man's brother and heir in Mexico. Forbes has only months to live, and doesn't want his fortune to fall into the hands of an unscrupulous business associate. Forbes offers Ennison so much money, that he could give up his gun after a successful quest, and start a new life as a farmer. The trail leads to the remote ranch of an American expatriate, O'Reilly, who tells Ennison he once knew the younger of the Forbes brothers. O'Reilly's foreman, a man of mixed blood, offers help, but it soon becomes obvious that he has a hidden agenda ...

Until recently I had never heard of this movie, but then it popped up on somebody's list of favorite westerns. It won't ever be in my Top 20 - or even near to it - but it's nevertheless a nice little western with noir influences, cleverly plotted and beautifully shot, with most location work done in Mexico (only some in california). The characters are well-drawn and William T. Harmon's crisp dialogue adds a dimension to the mystery story. The film also offers one of the fastest draws ever put on film before the Italian film industry would turn gunslingers into illusionists of the third kind, even beating Lucky Luke on the draw (1). The film's major drawback is the ending, in which the anticipated gunfight  never takes place and the conflict is decided by other means than guns, hardly ever a good idea in a western.

Sherman mainly worked on minor Hollywood productions, and today he's probably best known for directing Big Jake, one of John Wayne's best vehicles from his twilight years. The cast is very fine, but Lorne Greene and Linda Cristal have preciously little to do. Beautiful Linda has a bathing scene in her birthday suit, but the camera remains at a deceptively long distance. The plot concentrates on former Tarzan actor Jock Mahoney, as the last of these fast gunslingers, and Gilbert Roland, as the sly-boots who offers to guide him to the younger Forbes brother. 


Note:
  
(1) On IMDB one reader says he studied the scene at the waterhole several times in freeze frame and got convinced it was fake, Mahoney starting his draw with his pistol out of his holster. Well, the scene works well, and make-believe is what movie-making is all about, isn't it?  

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