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DAY OF THE EVIL GUN (TV)(director: Jerry Thorpe; screenwriters: Charles Marquis Warren/Eric Bercovici/from a story by Warren; cinematographer: W. Wallace Kelley; editor: Alex Beaton; music: Jeff Alexander; cast: Glenn Ford (Warfield), Arthur Kennedy (Forbes), Dean Jagger (Jimmy Noble), John Anderson (Capt. Addis), Paul Fix (Sheriff), Nico Minardos (Jose Luis DeLeon), Harry Dean Stanton (Sgt. Parker), Pilar Pellicer (Lydia Yearby), Royal Dano (Dr. Prather), Ross Elliott (Reverend Yearby), James Griffith (Storekeeper); Runtime: 93; MGM; 1968)
“A darn good formulaic western.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A darn good formulaic western, of the aging gunslinger who vows to give up his guns and live a peaceful life. The film is very much the same in tone as Peckinpah’s The Deadly Companions, though this one falls short of delivering as much kick as that stellar western.

Gunslinger Warfield (Glenn Ford) returns to Adamsville after being gone for some time and is informed by his new neighbor, Owen Forbes (Arthur Kennedy), that his blonde wife Angie and two young daughters have been kidnapped two months ago by the Apaches. The farmer who came west a year ago from New Hampshire, also mentions that he was to marry Angie the following week as she gave her husband up for dead.

Warfield doesn’t like Forbes, and doesn’t want him to join his rescue effort. Warfield locates a peddler with a horse and cart who brought another Apache victim back to town, Jim Noble (Dean Jagger). The peddler speaks like a crazy man in riddles, as Warfield figures he’s an Indian trader who is pretending he’s touched in the head so that the Indians won’t harm him. When Warfield threatens to burn down his supply wagon, Noble tells him the trail the Apaches are on.

Unable to shake Forbes, the two go into Apache territory. They are captured by the Indians and turned over to a Spaniard, DeLeon. The bandit claims to have been given this territory by the Spanish government and uses the Apaches for his illicit trades. DeLeon leaves the two tied to the ground with the vultures waiting to attack them, when Warfield lures him with the promise of money he buried. After tricking the bandit and dispatching of him, the two keep heading to the secret Indian camp. They come across a town in the midst of a cholera epidemic, and Forbes threatens an Indian trader/storekeeper to tell him where the Indian camp is or else he’ll burn down his store.

As they get near the camp they stop off at a cavalry outpost, but it’s manned by renegade soldiers headed by a southerner, Captain Addis. The searchers learn that the renegade soldiers are trying to barter a deal with the Apaches for the supplies they stole after massacring a wagon patrol.

Warning: spoiler to follow in the next two paragraphs.

The once peaceful Forbes is now getting used to killing and seems to be enjoying it. The odd couple flee from the army deserters who held them as prisoners and outfox the attacking Apaches, and locate Warfield’s wife and kids.

On the return to town, Warfield barters his evil gun for domestic goods with the town shopkeeper, but on the street he’s challenged to a gun duel by the crazed Forbes. When Warfield refuses to draw, Forbes is about to kill him anyway. But the storekeeper kills Forbes with the gun he just received from Warfield.

This impressive western was originally made for television, but showed first in theaters.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”