Macdonald Carey and Audrey Totter in Man or Gun (1958)


(director: Albert C. Gannaway; screenwriter: Vance Skarstedt/James J. Cassity; cinematographer: Jack A. Marta; editor: Merrill White; music: Gene Garf/Ramey Idriss; cast: Macdonald Carey (Maybe Smith aka Scott Yancey), Audrey Totter (Fran Dare), James Craig (Pinch Corley), James Gleason (Sheriff Jim Jackson), Warren Stevens (Mike Ferris), Harry Shannon (Justin Corley), Jil Jarmyn (Mrs. Pinch Corley), Robert Burton (Deputy Sheriff Burt Burton), Ken Lynch (Buckstorm Corley), Julian Burton (Billy Corley), Carl York (Jack Corley), Ron McNeil (Nick); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Vance Skarstedt; Republic; 1958)
“Left me wishing this film forgot about its unconvincing noble aims it was preaching and went for the complete amoral lunacy of a spaghetti Western.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

DirectorAlbert C. Gannaway and screenwriters Vance Skarstedt and James J. Cassity follow the old formulaic plight of the weary fastest draw in the territory who wants to quit but can’t because he keeps running into people who want to test him. Aside from the exciting opening scene, the Western drags as it gets caught asking the facile question if it’s the man or his gun that makes him such a good shooter.

A drifter who calls himself Maybe Smith (Macdonald Carey) walks into Dutch Flats, some small one-horse town in the southwest. The dusty stranger says he lost his horse in the desert and is coming from nearby Santa Fe, as he goes into the Dare saloon owned by Fran Dare. An outlaw with a $2,000 reward over his head, whom Maybe doesn’t know, Buckstorm Corley, is goaded on by the slick-dressed oily Mike Ferris (Warren Stevens) to have some fun teasing the raggedy looking drifter. Buckstorm works his way into a gun duel after calling him raggy pants and demanding to buy his fancy colt .44 pistol, even after Maybe tells him he has no cause to gun him down. After he kills Buckstorm, who is related to the despotic Corley ranchers, the cowardly 60-year-old Sheriff Jackson (James Gleason) comes by and says that’s how he keeps law-and-order in town. Maybe reminds him his job is to prevent gun fights and make the town safe so women and children could walk the streets in safety, but the sheriff says it’s easy to let the shootouts continue and much safer for him.

Fran is impressed with Maybe and believes he’s the famous gunslinger from Santa Fe named Yancy Scott, as she remembers her deceased father telling her about him and the way he could spin a coin in such a unique way on a counter top–just like he does on her bar counter. She’s a schemer who plans to get Maybe to cleanup the town by eliminating all the Corleys, and hopes to accomplish this by working with her silent business partner Ferris to make sure the Corleys come after Maybe. All she professes to want is a decent and safe town, and sees no other way of doing it. Her plan leads to a number of gun duels, where Maybe always prevails. It builds to the concluding shootout, where Ferris pays $3,000 to old man Justin’s estranged son Pinch (James Craig), who is detested by the family because he married an Indian woman (Jil Jarmyn), to kill Maybe and give him that special gun. Since Pinch’s Indian wife put a curse on the gun, a strange partnership develops between the somewhat baddie Pinch and our noble hero Maybe (or is it Yancy?).

I loved the handles of Maybe, Pinch and Buckstorm, but the film’s theme left me wishing this film forgot about its unconvincing noble aims it was preaching and went for the complete amoral lunacy of a spaghetti Western.