Sunday, August 26, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Man or Gun (1958)

It's hard to describe what this movie is about without making it sound like a movie full of crazy people, but maybe that's the remarkable thing about this flick...  the movie actually makes the idea work.

Man or Gun (1958) finds a drifter coming to a rowdy frontier town - one who won't say who he is - who seems to have a seemingly supernatural power with a gun, leaving the townsfolk to ask "is it the man or the gun?"  And, of course, a whole lot of people get shot in that bloodless manner of a 1950's western.

The drifter no sooner arrives than stumbles upon (of course) a powerful family that rules and harasses the townfolk, making the tiny berg unsafe for women and children.  Powerful enough that one of them is wanted for $2000 and is still living publicly in the town - until he crosses paths with the drifter, that is.  The drifter won't give up his name, and comes to first be called "'Maybe' Smith", and falls under the watchful eye of Audrey Totter as Fran Dare (that, people, is a hell of a name).  Fran sees a chance to use the man or gun to push back against the dastardly Corleys.

I actually quite liked the movie for a small western that I'd not heard much about.  It's a story about superstition versus reality versus what you see with your own eyes.  And, in no small way, its about whether guns are any way to answer a dispute in a civilized world, even when you're trying to make a better world against others waving guns in your face.

Macdonald Smith does a good, straighfaced hero - even is he feels a bit long in the tooth for the role, and Audrey Totter is in top form as the woman running the local saloon who has a lot invested in the stranger.  Unlike FBI Girl, it felt like the director knew what he had in Totter and let her show her range a great bit more.

Anyway, not groundbreaking, but one of those movies you're a bit surprised how enjoyable it was when you really haven't heard anything about it before.

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