Last Train from Gun Hill

( 1 )

Overview

John Sturges' Last Train From Gun Hill (1959) never got to laserdisc, so the VistaVision presentation on this Paramount DVD is a real treat. Like Sturges' earlier Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (also starring Kirk Douglas and co-starring Earl Holliman), the movie makes superb use of spatial relationships in the setting up of suspense and tension, and the proper framing is essential to telling the story the way the director intended it to be seen. The opening sequence, in which the two loutish cowboys pursue, ...
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Overview

John Sturges' Last Train From Gun Hill (1959) never got to laserdisc, so the VistaVision presentation on this Paramount DVD is a real treat. Like Sturges' earlier Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (also starring Kirk Douglas and co-starring Earl Holliman), the movie makes superb use of spatial relationships in the setting up of suspense and tension, and the proper framing is essential to telling the story the way the director intended it to be seen. The opening sequence, in which the two loutish cowboys pursue, torment, and finally assault (and rape and murder) a Native American woman traveling in a buggy with her son, is a series of beautifully edited and tightly framed shots that exude escalating tension and violence. This is all cut carefully to a tight visual rhythm that, when coupled with Dimitri Tiomkin's interlocked music, is more effective here than it has ever looked in a full-screen presentation, which is the only way the movie has been seen since its original theatrical run until this DVD release. Letterboxed at an aspect ratio of about 2.0:1 (with enhancements for 16 x 9 screens), the movie has an intensity that a full-screen showing simply lacks. When Douglas' aggrieved federal marshal confronts Craig Belden (Anthony Quinn) over the murder of his wife by his son (Holliman), it now looks like one of the best scenes in Sturges' career, for acting and direction. The disc is enhanced by the use of a genuinely good-quality source, with deep color in the appropriate shots (such as the saloon scenes at 13 minutes in and 43 minutes in) and a washed out naturalism in other shots (such as a mountainous vistas at just before 14 minutes in). And as good as the first 70 minutes of the movie look, the last 25 -- when night falls on the town of Gun Hill and the violence escalates -- is even better, the delicate lighting shrouding just enough picture information to make the action and tension even more intense and focused. There's also an extended sequence showing Douglas leading his prisoner out of town, shotgun barrel poised under the young man's chin as they walk, surrounded by dozens of hostile guns and faces, that is just brilliant, seen framed and mastered this way. Otherwise, the disc is nicely mastered as far as the sound, with good volume and a lot of presence to Tiomkin's score, which -- apart from an awkward non-period feel to some of the title music -- relies on a lot of his usual orchestral growls and grunts (elements in his work that first showed up in his music for another Douglas movie, Champion) to underscore the action and suspense. If anything, the music has a very slight advantage over the dialogue. The 94-minute movie has been given 14 chapters, which are just adequate for the complexity of the plot, which unfolds in its various layers of events and characters faster than the chapters unspool. If there's an unfortunate aspect of this release, it's that more wasn't done with it -- there's no trailer or other bonus material, and this is such a potent piece of filmmaking that it deserved a commentary track. (Though, ironically, if Sturges were alive, he might well not have participated; he felt that this movie and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, both produced by Hal B. Wallis, were more Wallis' creations than his own, despite the qualities that he gave both movies.)
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Special Features

Closed Caption; Widescreen version enhanced for 16:9 TVs; Dolby Digital English mono; English subtitles
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Last Train From Gun Hill is one of John Sturges' less well regarded movies from the late '50s, for reasons that are difficult to fathom. That it should stand in the shadow of The Magnificent Seven (1960), with the latter's all-star cast and epic storyline, is understandable, but it also enjoys a less substantial reputation than Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), which is ironic since Sturges himself never thought of the latter as much more than a somewhat profitable directorial assignment. In terms of its story, Last Train From Gun Hill offers striking parallels with Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), which is usually regarded as Sturges' masterpiece. Both movies' plots unfold around acts of violence committed for racist reasons; both involve lone heroes, trapped in isolated, unfriendly towns where they've come to do a job setting some injustice right, and end up fighting for their lives; and both involve villains who, despite enjoying the support of most of the townspeople around them, end up not only losing their respective battles but inadvertently causing the death of the person closest to them. Kirk Douglas has a role that is an ideal vehicle for the intensity that he can bring to the screen, as the aggrieved town marshal looking for the two men who raped and murdered his wife. And Anthony Quinn, playing a part filled with great moral ambiguity than was customary for this era in movies (especially Westerns), is his match as the basically decent man whose biggest crime was raising a rotten, cowardly, murderous son, but who will do anything to protect that son. Earl Holliman, graduating to major roles after supporting parts in movies such as Sturges' Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, gives one of his best performances as the spoiled, sniveling coward of a son, who ultimately evokes a slight degree of pity to go with the obvious contempt that he deserves. Carolyn Jones turns in one of her always on-target performances as a fallen woman seeking to restore her dignity and independence, and Brad Dexter -- who was so strangely invisible in The Magnificent Seven -- gives one of the best performances of his career as Beero, the tough, calculating foreman of Quinn's ranch. With a suspense element similar to that of High Noon -- the clock is ticking in the viewer's consciousness from the moment that Douglas' character vows to take Holliman's Rick Belden out of town and to trial on the last train, at 9:00 p.m. -- the result is a highly suspenseful film built around a fascinating array of characters.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/9/2004
  • UPC: 097363769248
  • Original Release: 1959
  • Rating:

  • Source: Paramount
  • Region Code: 1
  • Presentation: Wide Screen / Subtitled
  • Time: 1:34:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 79,916

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Kirk Douglas Matt Morgan
Anthony Quinn Craig Belden
Carolyn Jones Linda
Earl Holliman Rick Belden
Brad Dexter Beero
Brian G. Hutton Lee
Ziva Rodann Catherine Morgan
Bing Russell Skag
Val Avery Bartender
Walter Sande Sheriff Bartlett
Eric Alden
Dabbs Greer Andy
Frank S. Hagney One of Craig's Men
Ty Hardin Cowboy
Lars Henderson Walter Sande
Len Hendry Man in Lobby
Ricky Kelman Boy
Jack Lomas Charlie
Mara Lynn Minnie
Mike Mahoney Drummer on Train
Hank Mann Storekeeper
William Newell Hotel Clerk
Tony Russo Pinto
Carl Saxe
Charles Stevens Keno
Glenn Strange Saloon Bouncer
Julius Tannen Cleaning Man
Sid Tomack Roomer
Henry Wills Jake
Bob Scott Conductor
Technical Credits
John Sturges Director
Edith Head Costumes/Costume Designer
Charles B. Lang Cinematographer
Warren Low Editor
D. Michael Moore Asst. Director
Paul Nathan Associate Producer
Hal Pereira Art Director
James Poe Screenwriter
Dimitri Tiomkin Score Composer, Musical Direction/Supervision
Walter Tyler Art Director
Hal B. Wallis Producer
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. No So Fast [6:11]
2. Marshal Morgan [5:32]
3. Want That Saddle [7:16]
4. Tell Him I'm Coming [7:17]
5. The Mark [6:33]
6. Just an Indian Squaw [8:07]
7. I Am the Law [8:36]
8. Standoff [6:08]
9. Laying Odds [4:38]
10. Keep the Money [7:26]
11. Saved Lives [7:15]
12. Shotgun [5:52]
13. Do What He Says [7:51]
14. Draw! [5:25]
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Menu

Side #1 --
   Play
   Set Up
      Subtitle Options: English
      Subtitle Options: None
   Scene Selection
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Great Western with great actors

    I watch this movie all the time. I never get tired of it. Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, Shirley Jones, and of course, Earl Holliman in his usual hateful role. This was a really well made movie. You will enjoy this classic, there's a lot of tension.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews