In recent times I have gotten in to a sort of new sub-genre of Western movies. It's not really a sub-genre, like the exploitation films that started being produced in the 1970s, but I am calling it a sub-genre never the less. The post 19th century sub-genre of Western films…
What is a post 19th century Western film? Well simply put, these are movies that although still technically based in the old west, with their old west sensiblities, honor and codes, but while these cowboys, lawmen, and out laws still live by their old codes, the rest of the world is changing… An example of this being that in The Mercenary, They had some Machine guns that were not the old Gatling Guns that were used during the civil war, a gun that fired rapidly, but fire based on a crank system… No the gun in this movie looked pretty reminiscent of those heavy duty automatic guns that you would see in World War 1. They also had some limited use of Automobiles in this movie as well!
With that said, I have recently discovered another of these post 19th century Western movies that I thought that I would recommend here. This movie being, Death Of A Gunfighter (1969):
Written by: Joseph Calvelli (In The Beginning) and Directed by: Alan Smithee (Hellraiser: Bloodline) and starring Richard Widmark (The Alamo), Lena Horne (The Whiz), and Michael McGreevy (Fame)
Death Of A Gun Fighter tells of a time when the old west sensibilities are beginning to change, where the code of a cowboy is being replaced slowly with the need to establish the rule of law… Where even an outlaw's life could be spared…
At least that is how it is like in Cottonwood Springs:
And speaking of Cottonwood Springs, this is a town that still is primarily steeped in old west traditions, I mean it looks like most of the city barely has indoor plumming and also barely has electricity! Now most of the town has reasons for wanting to do away with these old west traditions. For example, the corrupt city council wants to see an end to these old west traditions, so that they can generate new business for the town, and for themselves…
With that said, one of the people that the town council would like to see done away with is Town Marshal Frank Patch (Widmark)…
Marshal Patch is a man that is still very much steeped in the old world traditions, he still looks like a cowboy, he doesn't have a problem with killing the guilty, etc… With that said, the town really wants to get rid of him!
Well they finally get their justification one night when while doing his last round of the evening for the entire town (checking stores and the like to make sure that they are safe and locked up.)
During Frank's final round for the evening, he ends up at the local Livery Stables, trying to make sure that no horse thieves have kidnapped any of the town's horse
s. When he get their he is confronted by a drunk Luke Mills (Played by: Jimmy Lydon).
Now Luke had just spent a drunken couple of days with one of the local prostitutes and when that prostitute had tired of him, one of the ways she got rid of him, was by claiming that Marshall Patch and his wife Laurie (Played by: Jacqueline Scott) were having an affair.
Now before I continue here, I thought I would preface what I am about to say, with this. In the movie there is a scene between Richard Widmark and Jacqueline Scott, in which her character Laurie intimates that Widmark's character Marshall Patch and Laurie could have gotten together about 20 years earlier, but that she had ultimately decided to choose Luke over the Marshal…
With that said, and being drunk, Luke decides to ambush the Marshal in the Livery Stables. This fails miserably and ultimately ends up killing Luke!
And now with the guilt over killing Luke, and with the town council ready to do what ever it takes to get rid of him (including having the county sheriff (played by John Saxon) come in to arrest the Marshal.) It is now up to Marshal Patch and his small fan base to enforce the rule of law, before the forces against him, can take him out in ANYWAY necessary!
With that said, what I liked about this movie, and what I do truly believe makes this an awesome b movie is a couple of things:
1. I find this movie to have a fascinating premise, in that the movie basically is about a Town that once applauded their lawman for the good work that he did, and now not only has turned their back's against him, but will do everything in their power to get rid of him (and I mean ANYTHING)!
2. The next thing that I wanted to talk about here is Richard Widmark. Now let me preface what I am about to say, with this, all the cast are great! Since this is my first Richard Widmark movie, I gotta say that I think he is a superb actor, and I am looking forward to the next movie I see with him in!
3. Now the next person that I wanted to mention here is, Alan Smithee… Now Alan Smithee is notorious for having done what is considered bad B movies! Now a little bit of trivia: Alan Smithee is a universal pseudonym for directors who don't like the way their films turned out. So, like in the case of this movie, in which Alan Smithee is given credit for Death Of A Gunfighter. This movie was actually directed by Don Siegel (Escape From Alcatraz) and Robert Totten (Magnum P.I.).
4. And you know for a movie that was given the Alan Smithee moniker, there are other great actors in this movie besides those mentioned above: Caroll O'Connor (Kelly's Heroes), Royal Dano (The Killer Inside Me) and Harry Carey Jr. (Gremlins).
5. Another piece of trivia that I thought that I would mention as well is the fact that this movie is based on the book by the same name by Lewis B. Patten!
Anyway folks, if your looking for a fun Western to watch, I highly recommend watching this one, it is a great tale that I liked and I do think you might as well!
I couldn't find a trailer for Death Of A Gunfighter, but please enjoy this trailer for The Alamo (another Widmark classic):