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GUN FURY (director: Raoul Walsh; screenwriters: from the novel Ten Against Caesar by Kathleen B. George & Robert A. Granger/Irving Wallace/Roy Huggins; cinematographer: Lester White; editors: James Sweeney/Jerome Thoms; cast: Rock Hudson (Ben Warren), Donna Reed (Jennifer Ballard), Phil Carey (Frank Slayton), Roberta Haynes (Estella Morales), Leo Gordon (Tom ‘Jess’ Burgess), Lee Marvin (Blinky), Neville Brand (Brazos), Forrest Lewis (Weatherby), Post Park (Billy Whiskers), Robert Herron (Curly Jordan); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lewis Rachmil; Columbia Pictures; 1953)
“The terrible ending, where the Rock Hudson character suddenly acts out of character, almost wrecks this straight-forward Western actioner.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This action-packed Raoul Walsh (“The Big Trail”/”Colorado Territory”) Western was originally presented in 3-D. Writers Irving Wallace and Roy Huggins base it on the novel Ten Against Caesar by Kathleen B. George and Robert A. Granger.

The film is set just after the Civil War. Southerner Jennifer Ballard (Donna Reed) is travelling west by stage to marry Southerner Civil War veteran Ben Warren (Rock Hudson). He’s now a wealthy cattle rancher in California and a pacifist. Not able to wait for Jennifer he rushes to meet her at Rogers Station, where they spend the night together in separate hotel rooms and dine with the three bachelor stage passengers. They catch the next stage to Haynesville, Arizona, but they are led into a trap as two of the passengers are the outlaw leaders and the cavalry riding to protect the strongbox has been replaced by the gang. The dangerous leader of the 8 to 9 member gang, an unreconstructed Southerner named Frank Slayton (Phil Carey), kills three men who resist the holdup and shoots Ben. They kidnap Jennifer, with Slayton planning to take her to Mexico as the classy woman he always dreamed to have as a wife. But it turns out Ben was only knocked cold and he goes on the trail to hunt Slayton down and rescue his fair maiden. He finds Slayton’s second in command, Jess Burgess (Leo Gordon), tied to the post outside a shack. They make a deal to ride together, as Jess tells how the psychopathic Slayton turned against him when he argued to let the girl go. Ben disavows his previous indifference to the world and declares “A man’s got to do his own growing, no matter how tall his father is” and becomes a man of action. The pursuers buy guns from a passing sheepherder, but can’t get the nearest town’s sheriff to organize a posse or offer any help. Along the way they are joined by Billy Whiskers (Post Park), who also wants revenge on Slayton for a raid on his farm that resulted in the bad dudes killing his sister. They trek the outlaws through Arizona, near the Mexican border, where they pick up the outlaws trail and it leads to a totally unconvincing conclusion that ignores any sexual attack on Jennifer by the lusting Slayton and a bargain that goes bad between the gang and the pursuers that has no logic to it in the first place.

The terrible ending, where the Rock Hudson character suddenly acts out of character, almost wrecks this straight-forward Western actioner. It’s solid entertainment when it’s all action, but fails miserably as a character study. The villainous Carey steals the film, despite the Rock’s flamboyant performance. A young Lee Marvin has a noticeable bit part as one of the varmints who keeps griping “I knew that girl was going to be trouble to bring along.”


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”