Along with the well-established classics, Hollywood cranked out a slew of budget-conscious, quickly-shot westerns to capitalize on the genre's enduring popularity. Most were minor diversions, now largely forgotten, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some really good ones.
Gun the Man Down is one of those, and particularly noteworthy for several reasons. First, it features James Arness just before Gunsmoke made him a household name. Second, this is the first western directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, who’d go on to helm dozens of Gunsmoke episodes and several feature films starring John Wayne (who co-produced this). Third, it features Angie Dickinson, soon to become a Hollywood sex symbol, in her first prominent role.
The story is a fairly intriguing tale of revenge. Arness plays Rem, an outlaw who’s left behind by his two partners after being shot during a bank robbery. To make matters worse, they take off with his girlfriend, Janice (Dickinson), during their escape. Rem goes to jail for year and, upon release, wants some payback, but he has more in-mind than simply shooting them (though it’s not always quite clear what that is).
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Not the most ambitious thing ever made, Gun the Man Down is quite good for what it is...a short, well-paced western with noirish plot elements that place it a notch or two above the usual low budget oaters of the era. No one before or behind the camera stretches themselves too much, but since when did that matter?
On a side note, after seeing this film, one might notice that the title doesn’t actually make much sense, but that’s just nitpicking. This is a fun little film.
EXTRA KIBBLES: Trailer
PURR...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS