- Recommended to lovers of dramatic Westerns. 5/28/2000 12:00:00 AM by A. Judas Rimmer
I found every moment of this movie gripping. Now, I am a fan of the Western genre, but this one is one of my favorites along with The Oxbow Incident and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The "tough-guy who can not get away from his past/reputation" is a classic and Gregory Peck's performance has the perfect air of menace and weariness for the role. I recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys thoughtful and dramatic movies.
- A very careful adult Western set in a believable community... 11/22/1999 12:00:00 AM by Nazi_Fighter_David
Is there any place, any retreat, any home of retirement, that an inevitably tiring gunman can move on to?
This predicament is best conveyed, explored and given its full tragic weight in Henry King's 'The Gunfighter.'
Ringo (Gregory Peck), wearing his reputation as the fastest gun in the south-west territories like a heavy load, enters each bar warily when he needs a quiet drink, knowing full well the reaction?fear, respect, perhaps admiration, and certainly the intervention in some form or other of a young upstart with itchy gun-fingers.
Although Ringo, guilty for previous sins, tries to refrain and to avoid the shoot-out... But he is always compelled to eliminate the worthless maladjusted gunmen, wishful for a big name...
The pattern is set early on when Peck has to shoot a boy (Richard Jaecke1) in self-defense. And so a feud begins?you feel it's only one of many?with the three brothers of the boy (Alan Hale Jr., David Clarke and John Pickard) hell-bent for revenge?
Peck deals with this situation, at least for the moment, sighs and then moves on to a place that passes for home... Here is his wife (Helen Westcott) and his son, who won't, however, be providing him with a welcome since in the eight years that husband and family have been apart the wife has been trying to build a life of their own? Here also is a sheriff (Millard Mitchell) formerly engaged in Peck's outlaw activities, but now reformed, and an old girl friend (Jean Parker) ready to he1p him in anything that concerns him most? His actual concern is reconciliation with his wife and a new life together? There is a tentative rapprochement but, of course, there is another of those young contender interventions, this time in the person of Skip Homeier?
Henry King draws up carefully the ultimate end of the 'top gun of the West.' His film is an inclination towards a classical tragedy, destined to be destroyed inevitably... Peck strikes the right note from his first edgy entry... He wants to shake off his past... He is disgusted to kill in order to survive... He is aimless for a change, sick with death and glory, showing tiredness of killing, conscious to a tragic fate one day...
Peck is superb in his brief and nervy reunion with his small son, impressed like the rest of the local kids by the fact that Jimmy Ringo, the gunfighter, is in town...
"The Gunfighter", keen and penetrating, explosive and tense, is beautifully acted, tautly directed and superbly photographed by Arthur Miller in black-and-white...
- A True Classic 10/28/2002 12:00:00 AM by shark-43
This underrated classic deservs to be seen by true fans of westerns - in 1950 when it came out it was one of the first that tried to get it really right - the clothes, the guns, the look, etc. Peck gives a wonderfully angry, sad performance as Ringo an old gunfighter who is dead tired of the "life" and wants to retire. Fascinating characters, great performances, tight, strong script. Seek this one out. Made before High Noon but never gets the attention it deserves.
- It's never really black or white 1/19/2006 12:00:00 AM by Matti-Man
THE GUNFIGHTER is the seventh western movie I've watched in the last couple of weeks in my quest to catch up with a bunch of films I've never seen that I recorded from TV. And I've made sure I've posted a review as I viewed each for the first time.
THE GUNFIGHTER is another superb western from a director not normally associated with the genre. Falling squarely between the 1940s and 1950s, I was at first uncertain at to which camp this film fell into. It has all the incidents you'd expect in a 1940s oater, but overlaid with the kind of psychology and sensibilities you'd expect in a 1950s western. In the end, I decided this is a film about contrasts.
The first contrast you notice is the visual one. The movie is shot in black and white and it seems that those were the only two tones available to director Henry King. The exteriors are bright, bleached out and hard on the eyes. The interiors are dark, cool and gloomy. There doesn't seem to be much shades of grey going on (of course, I could have been watching a bad print, but work with me, here ...)
This visual contrast is echoed by the contrasts between the characters. The first of these we see is the contrast between Peck's Jimmy Ringo and the dumb kid who challenges him in the first bar. Ringo tries to talk him round, the kid won't have it and goes for his gun. But Ringo - of course - is faster. Darwinism at work ...
The next telling contrast is between Ringo and his old compadre, Town Marshall Mark Street. While Ringo still drifts from town to town, occasionally having to show some punk who's fastest, Mark has gone respectable and settled down. Mark is a respected citizen while Ringo's presence causes mothers to call their children indoors.
Then there's the contrast between Peggy, Ringo's estranged wife, and the gossipping, prejudiced biddies of the town. Is it any coincidence that Peggy is a teacher, representing education and, by implication, civilisation?
THE GUNFIGHTER is very tightly plotted at just 85 minutes. It seems longer because of the wealth of incident it packed into its slender running time. Film makers of today could learn a lot about how to pace a story from films like this.
If it shows up on TCM or somesuch satellite/cable channel, do yourself a favour and make the effort to catch it. It's well worth your while.
- Sophocles And Sundance 4/6/2005 12:00:00 AM by writers_reign
Over a span of exactly 10 (1949 - 1959) years journeyman director Henry King shot five films starring Gregory Peck; two of them, The Snows Of Kilimanjaro and The Bravados were pretty ho-hum whilst the last one, Beloved Infidel with Peck as Scott Fitzgerald (King's next and final film was Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night)was woefully underrated and has still to find its audience. The first two, shot back to back, 12 O'Clock High and this one remain the pick of the bunch, two early and excellent studies of psychological stress. The Gunfighter is shot through with the air of inexorability that has been with us since Euripedes, Aeschylus and Sophocles were writing out of Athens in the 5th century BC. You are what you do; you can't reform and hope the Gods will forget your past. Take one false step and you've sealed your own fate. It's hard to think of an actor who, at the time (1950) could have conveyed an essentially decent killer (Alan Ladd of course did something very similar three years later in Shane but Ladd somehow lacked Peck's gravitas) so perfectly. Woefully underrated as an actor Peck was right on top of his game here, as he was in 12 O'Clock High and if they even considered 85 minute movies for Oscars then his Jimmy Ringo may well have preceded his Atticus Finch statuette-wise. William Bowers provided a very literate screenplay and snatches of dialogue have remained with me for years: an arrogant young punk (Richard Jaeckel) remarks to his barber-shop cronies that Ringo doesn't look so fast to him, 'I bet I'm faster than him', to which a friend replies drily 'if you're not can I have your saddle'; and Karl Malden's loquacious bartender, full of reminiscence of earlier encounters with Ringo 'I used to serve you and Bucky Harris all the time', to which Peck replies, equally drily, 'did we ever get a drink?'. Millard Mitchell was in both movies (12 O'Clock High and Gunfighter) and here he plays outlaw-turned-marshall Strett and serves as an illustration for what Peck's Ringo MIGHT have become if the Gods didn't have it in for him. We cover a lot of ground in 85 minutes whilst perversely seeming to have all the time in the world with King allowing his camera to linger on two-shots. Helen Westcott doesn't have much to do as Mrs Ringo but she lends just the right air of respectability that makes it hard for us to picture Ringo as a cold-blooded killer. As other posters have pointed out for a Western there's not all that much gun-play or even fistfights yet it towers over other Westerns that are packed with action. A real treasure.