Jeff Arnold’s West

The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans

Fury at Gunsight Pass (Columbia, 1956)

 

A tidy little oater with a slightly unusual plot

 

Like our last review, Montana Territory, this picture was a mid-budget 1950s Columbia second feature, directed this time by another experienced hand, Fred F Sears. It was a 68-minute black & white job.

 

Fred at the helm

 

We’ve had Fury at Furnace Creek and Fury at Showdown, so why not a bit of Fury at Gunsight Pass? Actually there was a massacre at Gunsight Pass too, in S5 E12 of Cheyenne.

 

The movie was produced by Wallace MacDonald, a former silent-movie actor (he’d headed the cast in the 1926 Fighting with Buffalo Bill and the 1927 Whispering Smith Rides) who also directed such gems as the 1923 Girl from the West, but in addition produced over a hundred pictures, most notably for me Ambush at Tomahawk Gap and The Nebraskan.

 

Wallace in earlier times

 

The picture’s cast was headed by David Brian. Brian was big, burly and blond, and ipso facto, or should it be ipsis factis, Bart will tell us, well suited to being a Western badman. My all-time favorite Western bad guy Brian was when he was the beefy saloon owner in Dawn at Socorro, but that’s another story. In this one he is co-leader of a gang of bank-robbing outlaws and pretty durn tough.

 

Brian heads the cast

 

His criminal coworker is none other than our old pal Neville Brand, about whom we were waxing lyrical back in January (click the link for that). Never less than excellent in a gang of villains, Neville does the business in this one too.

 

Neville’s a gang leader too

 

So there are strong actors on the distaff side.

 

The goodies, though, are a bit bland. Richard Long played the young hero, the son of the banker who sets things right after the robbery. Long had played juvenile leads for Universal for some time and gradually worked his way into leading parts in second features. Westernwise he was probably best known for being Jarrod Barkley in The Big Valley. The day of the action (inc. the robbery) is his wedding day and he is marrying the equally non-standout Lisa Davis. Her role is very background, with weak writing.

 

Heroes a bit insipid though

 

As with Montana Territory, however, while the leads are a bit gray, the support acting is superior. The new bride is the daughter of Doc Morris Ankrum, the excellent Percy Helton is the diminutive and crooked wedding/funeral parlor owner Boggs (in an enjoyably bigger than usual role for him), Wally Vernon is the crusty old outlaw Okay Okay, Addison Richards is the banker, Paul E Burns is the barman, James Anderson and George Keymas are gang members, and Frank Fenton is the sheriff. Very satisfactory.

 

Percy is in cahoots with Brian

 

The plot is a bit different, actually. The David Lang story and screenplay (Lang scripted fifteen mid-budget oaters, some quite good) has the loot from the robbery disappearing – Percy hides it in one of his coffins but he is accidentally shot and his nagging wife (Katherine Warren) finds it and absconds.

 

The wicked widow wants to do a runner with the swag

 

Although first Brian & Co are captured and jailed (of course the mob wants to string them up), they escape thanks to Brand and turn the tables, holding the town hostage until the cash is found. The climax occurs during a sandstorm.

 

Captured…

 

…jailed…

 

…and lynched?

 

Much of the picture was done on the Columbia Western town lot but there’s the odd bit of enjoyable Vasquez Rocks location shooting, with old hand Fred Jackman Jr at the camera.

 

Mischa Bakaleinikoff was the music maestro.

 

The opening titles are nice and noirish.

 

Brian and Brand shoot it out in the funeral parlor (a convenient place for the loser anyway). The winner is dispatched soon thereafter. Everyone lives happily ever after especially the newlyweds. Fin.

 

Well, well. Don’t expect greatness and you won’t be disappointed. Au fond it’s just a black & white B-Western but it has an unusual enough plotline, some excellent character actors and plenty of action. As Dan Stumpf wrote, “It’s a film well worth catching, filled with smoothly tracking and complex camerawork, vigorous shoot-outs, complex characters and a story that stubbornly refuses to settle into any familiar pattern.”

 

 

You could do a lot worse.

 

 

 

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