Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I haven't recommended a western in a while

To be honest, Westerns aren't my favorite genre, for whatever reason. I prefer a good comedy or mystery. But not being certain what I wanted to write about today -- and seeing that TCM is spotlighting Kim Novak, I knew I didn't want to write about Vertigo again -- I decided I'd look for a good western available on DVD, and thought of No Name On the Bullet.

Audie Murphy stars as John Gant, and starts off the movie by riding into town one day. The good people in town immediately recognize him, and know that he's a contract killer. It's obvious that he's come to town to kill one of them, but which one? This, needless to say, is a rather frightening proposition for the town. However, the people can't do anything about Gant. Partly this is because it's easy for a frightened populace to be divided and conquered, as in High Noon. However, there's a second, more important reason the people are powerless, which is Gant's modus operandi. Gant is meticulous about getting his victim to draw first, meaning that when Gant then shoots his victims, he's able to claim self defense. Indeed, any feeble attempts they as individuals make to do something about Gant are met with failure.

So, Gant calmly proceeds to terrorize the town simply by being there, while we learn that each of the cast members has some good reason to believe he or she might be the one for whom Gant has come. One of the big plusses about No Name On the Bullet is that the townspeople are an ensemble cast, and the story is allowed to be the thing rather than any of their performances. Eventually, though, Gant irritates the population enough that one of their number, a terminally ill judge, decides he's willing to take the fall for the rest of the town. After all, he's going to die, anyway. However, before he's able to extract his revenge, we learn that Gant has been sent to kill....

You didn't think I was going to give that away, did you?

I think one of the reasons I enjoy No Name On the Bullet so much is that it's a western in setting only. The plot (written by Gene Coon of Star Trek fame) is one that could easily have worked anywhere people would have had access to weapons, including in Gene Coon's Star Trek universe. As I mentioned, this movie is available on DVD, and is a very interesting movie indeed.

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