Lindsey Tries to Appreciate Westerns: Gun Street (1961)

(Image via Movie Poster Shop)
(Image via Movie Poster Shop)

Gary Wells has been serving prison time for six years after attempting to rob a bank. He makes a daring escape, heading back to the small, dusty town he was arrested in. Gary’s got big plans of getting revenge on those who imprisoned him.

Wells’ biggest targets are his ex-wife (Peggy Stewart), who has remarried to Dr. Knudson (John Pickard), and Jeff Baxley (Herb Armstrong), who was directly responsible for Wells’ arrest because he testified at the trial.

Others in town aren’t very fearful for their own safety, but want justice against Wells, including barkeep Willie Driscoll (Med Flory) and saloon-owner Joan Brady (Jean Willes), whose brother was involved in the bank robbery but was killed.

Sheriff Charles Morton (James Brown) and his deputy, Sam Freed (John Clarke), are trying their best to track Wells in order to save both themselves and Wells’ other targets.

This will be no easy feat, since the gun-toting Wells knows the land better than anyone and has a sneaky sister, Pat (Sandra Stone), who is more than willing to help him stay free. Meanwhile, Pat’s husband Frank Bogan (Warren J. Kemmerling) is somewhat oblivious to his wife’s assistance to her brother.

Edward L. Cahn (Invisible Invaders) directs 1961’s Gun Street. The script was penned by Sam Freedle (High Noon, Inherit the Wind). This film is available for viewing on Netflix Instant.

Gun Street is a bit of a slow-burner. Though peppered with a few thrilling scenes, there isn’t a lot of direct conflict in this low-budget film. We don’t actually see convict Gary Wells very often, and on many of the occasions that we do see him, he’s alone rather than going head-to-head with Sheriff Morton or any of his other targets.

(Image via ebay)
(Image via ebay)

This is still a pretty great watch, though. Though the pace is slow, a tense atmosphere is upheld throughout the film’s short, 67-minute running time. The photography is quite beautiful, especially for such a low-budget picture. Shot in crisp black and white, the movie makes great use of dramatic lighting and shadow.

James Brown’s character of Sheriff Charles Morton serves as the film’s central focus. A decent-sized slice of the story is dedicated not to the action that comes along with his position as sheriff, but instead to his conflicted attitudes about his job. He was appointed sheriff by the mayor and seems to have grown very tired of being the town’s head lawman. He’s angry at the whole town, in fact, because they want his protection though they’re the ones who voted not to hang Wells. There’s an overpowering sense of disillusionment built by Brown’s performance, giving the viewer some character exploration to chew on during the film’s slower periods.

Gun Street is definitely a minor Western, but it’s a solid effort. The film’s story plays out much like a detective tale dressed up in cowboy hats, boots and dust, which actually works greatly in its favor. Brown delivers a good performance and his supports are generally strong as well, especially Kemmerling and Willes.

Did it boost my appreciation of the Western genre? YES – I really enjoyed watching this one. It isn’t a perfect film, but it’s a very good B-level picture.
The score: 4/5

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