FORTY GUNS: DVD
Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck), a despotic matriarch, sends her posse of (forty) hired guns to overrun weak-willed sheriff Ned Logan (Dean Jagger) and so become the de facto leader of Cochise County. But when one time gunslinger turned US Marshall Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan) arrives to restore law and order, Jessica falls for the new lawman - and Ned Logan's chance with her is dashed. But when her brother Brockie (John Ericson) shoots Griff's brother Wes (Gene Barry) at his wedding to female gunsmith Louvenia Spanger (Eve Brent), Jessica's ability to bend the law comes to an end. In a climactic stand-off fuelled by danger and desire, Griff is finally forced to break his vow of non-violence.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Here is Sam Fuller in top gear, as writer, director and producer, with a Western that is solidly crafted and brilliantly cast. Barbara Stanwyck is at her peak - although her peak lasted decades - as the strong woman at the top of an Arizona county on the eve of big changes in the West, as gunslingers were being relegated to the history books. But before he stepped into that sepia place, Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan) makes one last stand, this time as a lawman, 10 years after his last killing.
The characters are all important in this story of a small town that's bullied by the forty-strong army of Jessica Drummond, but as the story opens out, it's the characters without a moral compass who are on the back foot. Fuller writes a compressed screenplay and gives Jessica a redemption that helps propel the drama at the end. And Barry Sullivan is contained as the ex-gunfighter who is tormented into yet one more killing in a surprising end play.
And speaking of character . . . Stanwyck was 49 when she made this film, yet when the stuntwoman declined to be dragged along the prairie by Jessica's white horse during a twister storm, Stanwyck did it herself, suffering only minor bruises and scratches.
If the film has a message, it's contained in a line from Sullivan's Griff Bonnell, who explains to one of the townsfolk why he feels he's not so great; he can't forgive. To forgive, he says, you've got to be big.
A note about this DVD: the plot synopsis on the slick is incorrect - as if it had been cut back by a careless sub-editor. It suggests that Griff is about to marry Louvenia, which is wrong. It's Griff's brother.
Published September 25, 2008
Email this article
FORTY GUNS: DVD (PG)
CAST: Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan, Dean Jagger, John Ericson, Gene Barry, Eve Brent
PRODUCER: Samuel Fuller
DIRECTOR: Samuel Fuller
SCRIPT: Samuel Fuller
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Joseph F. Biroc
EDITOR: Gene Fowler Jr
MUSIC: Harry Sukman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: John B. Mansbridge (art direction)
RUNNING TIME: 77 minutes
PRESENTATION: 16:9 (Cinemascope); DD 2.0; Black & White
SPECIAL FEATURES: none
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Umbrella
DVD RELEASE: August 4, 2008