Film Review: Man with the Gun

He "always dresses in grey, black would suit him better", Nelly Bain

"Bleak monochrome Western, the directorial debut of Orson Welles's one time right hand man.....a thoughtful contribution to the cycle of socially critical Westerns that started with The Gunfighter and High Noon",Philip French, Observer 16 Oct 2011

Man with the Gun
Robert Mitchum

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Man with the Gun, Richard Wilson,1955

Dade Holman is a cattle baron who controls the town of Sheridan and the county around it. He has aspirations to run the State too. It is a familiar tale in which the local townsfolk are at their wit's end in enduring the lawless behaviour of Holman's gunmen, one of which we witness in the opening scene. He takes the slow ride into town taken by many a gunslinger. In this case the set is a sloping street which provides the entrance for many a character in the film, a set which also appears in many other films, Ox Bow Incident (1943), Broken Arrow (1950), and The True Story of Jesse James (1957), to name a few.

Down this sloping deserted and windswept street appears Clint Tollinger ( Robert Mitchum), by profession, a "town tamer", a peacemaker who takes over when the law cannot maintain order. He has "personal business" with Nelly Bain (Jan Sterling), but soon gets caught up in the town's affairs. Tolllinger has "only one rule" - he doesn't stay in a town too long. Only one of the townsfolk (of those who are still alive) shows any fight, the son of the blacksmith, who says:

"You can't keep turning the other cheek with a cemetery the size we've got."

The scene is set for Mitchum, who is well suited to the role to Dade Holman's hoodlums head on in bringing his kind of peace to Sheridan. Nelly warns Mitchum that Dade Holman is a "fat man but he's as hard as you are, he might even be cleverer". As the film develops the townsfolk start to have doubts about Tollinger's methods which are similarly ruthless to those of his adversary. As in High Noon they are fickle, so that when he looks round for support they all scurry for cover.

This is a strong film in that it intertwines a number of personal and community issues in an interesting and thought provoking way. The characters are quite complex, they are revealed to be far from predictable. I recommend it. It was first released in the UK as "The Trouble Shooter".

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Chris Smallbone March 2010

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