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SHOWDOWN AT BOOT HILL (director: Gene Fowler Jr.; screenwriter: Louis Vittes; cinematographer: John M. Nickolaus Jr. ; editor: Frank Sullivan; music: Albert Harris; cast: Charles Bronson (Luke Welsh), Fintan Meyler (Sally Crane), Robert Hutton (Sloane), John Carradine (Doc Weber), Carole Mathews (Jill Crane), Paul Maxey (Judge Wallen), Michael Mason (Les Patton), Thomas B. Henry (Con Maynor), George Douglas (Charles Maynor), George Pembroke (Sheriff Hinkle), Joe McGuinn (Mr. Creavy, Hotel Owner), Argentina Brunetti (Mrs. Bonaventura); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harold E. Knox; Republic Pictures; 1958)
“It reflects on the kind of depressing second-rate films Charles Bronson was saddled with before becoming a superstar.”

Reviewed by Dennis SchwartzGene Fowler Jr. (“I Was a Teenage Werewolf”/”The Oregon Trail”/”The Rebel Set”) directs this offbeat minor b/w Western as if he suddenly lost track of what’s right and wrong; Louis Vittes pens it as if he had something to say to outsiders of psychological worth. It reflects on the kind of depressing second-rate films Charles Bronson was saddled with before becoming a superstar.

Bounty hunter Luke Welsh (Charles Bronson) treks from St. Louis to Mound City, Kansas, to get the $200 reward onCon Maynor, who is wanted for killing three men there but is highly respected in this town for the good deeds he’s done. The deputy marshal guns down the killer in a fair gun duel, but all the townspeople refuse to identify the corpse as a way of denying Luke his bounty. Luke stays in town to do some soul-searching, where he’s treated as a pariah. In the meantime he falls in love with kindred spirit loner Sally Crane (Fintan Meyler), the ashamed daughter of the popular town whore Jill Crane (Carole Mathews).

It’s the kind of risible film where the gimpy Doc/barber, Doc Weber (John Carradine), says “there’s a Boot Hill in every man’s soul.” Oh, really! In a heart wrenching moment Luke tells his gal that he became a bounty hunter because he had an inferiority complex over being short. Sally retorts “No matter how many men you kill, it will not make you an inch taller.” That Sally, she speaks ‘big truth.’

The director never questions the ethics of the town in siding with a killer over a lawman with a legal warrant. He gives one the impression if you commit crimes away from your home turf and at home you donate generously to charity, have a good personality and social sense, and behave yourself, then you’re a good person even if you go as far as committing heinous crimes in other locations (it sounds as if it were scripted by a Mafia don). The director focuses in on Luke’s anti-social problems and need to be a lawman who always gets his man, as he’s at first angered by the town’s action but by the film’s conclusion doesn’t care any more because he found someone to love and feels he can now fit into society. This pretentious B film leaves one with the muddled message that it’s ok to mess with a federal marshal. Hogwash!


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”