Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, Earl Holliman, and Ziva Rodann in Last Train from Gun Hill (1959)


(director: John Sturges; screenwriters: Les Crutchfield/James Poe; cinematographer: Charles Lang; editor: Warren Low; music: Dimitri Tiomkin; cast: Kirk Douglas (Marshal Matt Morgan), Anthony Quinn (Craig Belden), Carolyn Jones (Linda), Earl Holliman (Rick Belden), Brad Dexter (Beero), Brian G. Hutton (Lee Smithers), Ziva Rodann (Catherine Morgan), Lars Henderson Jr. (Petey Morgan); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Paul Nathan/Hal B. Wallis; Paramount Pictures; 1959)
“The drama is shallow and forced, though admittedly somewhat entertaining.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

John Sturges (“Bad Day at Black Rock”/”The Magnificent Seven”/”The Great Escape”) directs this action-packed western that is better on suspense than developing its sketchy characters–the drama is shallow and forced, though admittedly somewhat entertaining. It’s similar in theme and mood to the much superior 3.10 to Yuma and is a follow-up to star Kirk Douglas’s and John Sturges’s commercial success of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. It’s literately written by Les Crutchfield and James Poe.

On a deserted trail returning from the reservation after visiting her folks is Native American Catherine Morgan (Ziva Rodann) and her nine-year-old son Petey. Two drunken cowhands, Rick Belden (Earl Holliman) and his friend Lee Smithers (Brian G. Hutton), harass Catherine with nasty sexual comments and when she whips one one of them and tries to outrace them, they overtake her buggy and rape and murder her in the woods (takes place off screen). Petey (Lars Henderson Jr.) steals one of their horses and rides into Pawlee to report it to his father, Marshal Matt Morgan (Kirk Douglas). Matt recognizes the expensive saddle as belonging to his old friend from his outlaw younger days, Craig Belden (Anthony Quinn), who owns a big spread outside of the neighboring town of Gun Hill. Craig obviously failed in his bullying efforts to raise his son proper.

Matt takes the train to Gun Hill to question Craig about the saddle. On the train he meets the beautiful Linda (Carolyn Jones), who warns him that Craig is a powerful man who controls the town. What he doesn’t know is that Linda is Craig’s long-suffering abused mistress. At their meeting, after intensive questioning it soon becomes evident that his son and his son’s friend are guilty, but Craig refuses to turn over his son and their friendship is challenged. Matt declares he’ll be taking his prisoners back on the nine o’clock train, the last train from Gun Hill, despite his interference. In the end, Matt is alone as Belden’s ranchers try to keep the marshal from making the arrest, only Linda helps by passing him a loaded shotgun when he’s outnumbered.

The film comes with no surprises. Douglas makes for a tough-minded marshal, Earl Holliman makes for a sniveling rapist and Quinn makes for an energetic ranchman. The film makes for a lively two-dimensional story about a brave man on a mission who is determined to succeed against all odds, but the story never moves into deeper territory.