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Gun Fury

Gun Fury(1953)

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teaser Gun Fury (1953)

Originally filmed and released in 3-D, Gun Fury (1953) is one of the better Westerns produced in that format and works just as well in a flat version as it does with all its gimmickry intact and various objects being hurled at the viewer. The story takes place in the post-Civil War years and opens with Jennifer Ballard (Donna Reed) traveling by stagecoach to meet her fianc, Ben Warren (Rock Hudson). Accompanying Jennifer on her voyage is fellow coach rider Frank Slayton (Phil Carey), who is traveling under the name Mr. Hampton for a reason. He is actually an ex-Confederate turned outlaw who quickly takes a strong liking to Ms. Ballard and his true nature is revealed once Jennifer and Ben are reunited. Slayton and his gang rob the stagecoach carrying the soon-to-be-married couple, abduct Jennifer and leave Ben for dead after shooting him. What follows is a tale of revenge and retribution as the injured Ben follows in pursuit, using his cunning to eventually divide and undermine the quarreling gang members and rescue his fiance.

Directed by Hollywood veteran Raoul Walsh (The Roaring Twenties [1939], High Sierra [1941]) after his peak years at Warner Bros., Gun Fury is a robust and entertaining action adventure that fills all of the requirements of a modestly-budgeted genre film. The stunning natural settings (filmed near Sedona, Arizona) and brisk pacing are major assets but the real draw here is the ensemble cast which includes two of the screen's greatest heavies as sidekicks of the disreputable Slayton Lee Marvin is Blinky and Neville Brand is Brazos. Both actors make the most of their minor roles but Marvin has the edge, particularly in a sequence where he tries to put the moves on Slayton's wildcat Mexican mistress Estella (Roberta Haynes) and she knocks him senseless. Nobody, however, matches Phil Carey for on-screen villainy in this film; he chews up the scenery with gusto as the wicked, amoral Slayton. Yet, despite the over-the-top nature of the performances particularly Rock Hudson's pacifist turned bloodthirsty avenger there is genuine tension generated throughout, particularly in regards to Donna Reed's victimized heroine. The threat of gang rape is implied throughout and the character of Jennifer is never glamorized; in fact, she is subjected to one physical ordeal after another, particularly after one escape attempt where she is tied and dragged behind by a horse.

Gun Fury was based on the novel Ten Against Caesar by Robert A. Granger and adapted for the screen by Roy Huggins (an Emmy nominated TV writer best known for Captains and the Kings and Run For Your Life) and best-selling novelist Irving Wallace (The Chapman Report, The Prize). It is also interesting to note that Gun Fury was one of five films that Donna Reed made in 1953, the other four being Trouble Along the Way, Raiders of the Seven Seas, The Caddy and From Here to Eternity, the movie that earned her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar®.

TCM will air Gun Fury in the flat Technicolor version minus the 3-D effects although it would be fun to see knives, logs, rocks and various objects being thrown at the camera. But just as Variety noted in their review of the movie, "Even without 3-D Columbia's Gun Fury would be a superior western" and The Hollywood Reporter confirmed it by calling it "a hard-driving affair smacking of authenticity and well thought out construction."

Producer: Lewis J. Rachmil
Director: Raoul Walsh
Screenplay: Irving Wallace, Roy Huggins, based on the novel Ten Against Caesar by Kathleen B. George & Robert A. Granger
Cinematography: Lester White
Art Direction: Ross Bellah
Music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff, Arthur Morton
Film Editing: James Sweeney, Jerome Thoms
Cast: Rock Hudson (Ben Warren), Donna Reed (Jennifer Ballard), Philip Carey (Frank Slayton), Roberta Haynes (Estella Morales), Leo Gordon (Tom 'Jess' Burgess), Lee Marvin (Blinky), Neville Brand (Brazos).

by Jeff Stafford

Lee Marvin: His Films and Career by Robert J. Lentz (McFarland)
Lee: A Memoir by Pamela Marvin (Faber & Faber)

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