Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel

Fastest Gun Alive, The (1956)

Directed by Russell Rouse. Written by Rouse amd Frank D. Gilroy from Gilroy's story "The Last Notch.." Photography, George J. Folsey. Editing, Harry V. Knapp, Ferris Webster. Art Direction Cedric Gibbons, Merrill Pye. Music, Andre Previn. Cast: Glenn Ford (George Temple), Jeanne Crain (Dora Temple), Broderick Crawford(Vinnie Harold), Russ Tamblyn, Allyn Joslyn,Leif Erickson, John Dehner, Noah Beery Jr, J.M. Kerrigan, Rhys Williams, Virginia Gregg, Chubby Johnson, Frank Stringer, John Doucette, et al. Produced by Clarence Greene. An MGM film. Black-and white. (Also colorized). 95 minutes.

A Western. perhaps conceived as an A picture but it comes out like a B movie, and a tiresome one at that.

George Temple (Glenn Ford) is a shopkeeper in a very small town. He is married to Dora (Jeanne. Crain). He has a secret, which is his hidden hand gun that he practices with out in the countryside, then hides at home. Turns out (for the audience) that he used to be a great gunslinger somewhere else, got sick of it, and moved to where he is now with Crain. She is au courant but others are not, in fact, they all believe that he is the most peace-loving man around.

Then, unconnectedly, there is, elsewhere, Vinnie Harold (Broderick Crawford) who leads a gang of robbers-killers. We first meet him after a bank robbery, during which he kills gratuitously a bank client. The victim happens to be the local sheriff's brother.This guarantees that the posse will be tenacious.

Cut to Vinnie and Co. hearing that a certain person is said to be the fastest gun. Vinnie does not know him, BUT he is obsessed with being the fastest gun alive. Vinnie is as mad as a hatter, a card-carrying psycho. So he defies the champ and kills him.

A witness to all that returns to George's town and, with Irish gusto, describes and retells that killing ad nauseam. This somehow irritates George and adds to his nervousness with being a shopkeeper. George and Dora moved in some four years ago, during which George had never touched alcohol. But for the first time he enters the local bar.

When rancher Allen Joslyn, complete in cowboy duds and a gun, shows some braggadocio, peacenik George is doubly irritated, tells Joslyn that the way his gun is worn is dumb, ineffectual, useless and describes how a real gunman goes about such matters. To the suprised customers he reveals that he, George, used to be a gunslinger. They do not believe him. He goes home, gets his gun from its hiding place, returns to the bar and gives a demonstration. This includes having two men throw a silver dollar each in the air. George puts a hole in both coins before they touch the ground.

Now the locals believe him. Indeed, they celebrate the fact that the champion is among them.

Vinnie shows up and, you guessed it, wants to duel with still peace-loving George, otherwise he'll burn down the town. When a nice local offers to fight Vinnie --which means certain death --.George relents.

Vinnie is killed, of course. In a trick ending we watch a double burial, of "George killed by Vinnie" and "Vinnie killed by George". But, by George! his widow does not look desperate. Why? Because there is no George corpse. George is alive, well and spirited away. This, to have him stop existing and being challenged. We assume that he will assume another identity yet in a distant place, where his wife will join him, where they can live happily ever after with their child (Dora is pregnant, but it does not show.)

Now that you know the plot you don't have to see the movie.

The flick is riddled with improbabilities. It is the same old stuff about gunmen challenging others so as to become Mr. Best. There is nothing wrong with this notion. It has served some movies well. And our movie makes things clear early on as someone says wisely that no matter how "best" one is, there's always someone better. It is a good, moral, realistic message which applies to everything in life, not just gunplay.

But the picture does not convince. In general this illustration of the old song "Anything you can do --I can do better" applies to lean and hungry-looking younger men who postulate the title and the glory of veteran Colt-users. Here Broderick Crawford (he of the raucous voice) is older than Ford and noticeably fatter. He wears throughout a single facial expression..

Glenn Ford wears two:: a pained one, and a very pained one. Not unusual for this performer. Expressivity was never his forte.

The cast includes a number of faces familiar from supporting roles. (See credits). None of them has more than a two-dimensional part, and this includes Jeanne Crain. Not unusual for her either, with the main exception being in her lead in the excellent "Pinky."

Among the performers Allyn Joslyn is the one who is most out of his element. Generally playing nervous or jittery types, mostly urban and with an element of elegance, he looks blatantly uncomfortable here, both in his part and in his outfit.

Broderick Crawford is wasted along with the others. And dancer-gymnast-actor Russ Tamblyn has, all to himself, an inexplicable sequence. During a dance, he performs an athletic, bouncy-jumpy number which is straight out of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," in which Tamblyn had played. That was a musical fantasy, and a very nice one too. But here the number has no place, makes no sense, and while quite admirable, strikes the wrong note. Since the moral " Fastest Gun" is a Western, you may wonder what such an accomplished tumbler is doing out there in the sticks.

The film's director is a minor name. Among his works one finds the definitely un-classic (in fact, awful) 1988 remake of the 1950 classic film noir "D.O.A."

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel