Forty Guns (1957)

MPW-33338Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan, Dean Jagger, John Ericson, Gene Barry, Robert Dix, Jidge Carroll, Paul Dubov, Gerald Milton

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: High. Sam Fuller.

threestar


I don’t say this often, but Forty Guns is definitely a film I’ll have to see again to really understand it. I felt almost completely lost through most of the movie, not necessarily plot-wise, but more thematically. There’s a ton of stuff going on, but unlike a lot of Fuller films, it seems as if Forty Guns doesn’t have one specific focal point where its themes come together. That could just be me not getting it, but for right now that’s the only viewpoint I have on it.

The film’s plot is fairly loosely told, focusing on Griff and his two brothers as they ride into a small town in Arizona. They’re working as representatives of the federal government and looking for a mail robber named Swain. This leads them into a struggle between the town and the woman who’s controlling it, Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck). What really complicates matters, though, is Jessica’s brother Brockie, a loud-mouthed, drunken asshole who’s always used to getting his way.

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Run of the Arrow (1957)

runofthearrow1Run of the Arrow (1957)
AKA Hot Lead, Yuma

Starring Rod Steiger, Sara Montiel, Brian Keith, Ralph Meeker, Jay C. Flippen, Charles Bronson, Olive Carey, H.M. Wynant, Neyle Morrow, Frank DeKova

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: High. Sam Fuller.

fourstar


This review officially marks the halfway point of my Sam Fuller series. It’s a little crazy that it’s taken me this long to only get halfway through, but I’m attacking it with newfound vigor and strength so I hope to complete it by year’s end. We’ll see. Anyway… Run of the Arrow! A truly impressive movie on so many levels, Sam Fuller once again crafts a yarn unlike any other I’ve seen, even among his own films. Every film I’ve seen of his is unique and thought-provoking, and Run of the Arrow is definitely one that brings up many questions. It’s a film about war, disillusionment, race and tolerance, and the road it travels to explore each of them is very unique.

Customary for a Sam Fuller film, the story opens excellently. Dead bodies rest on the smoking fields of battle and blood-red titles fade on-screen to let us know that it is the final day of the Civil War. A Union soldier rides lazy and confused through the battlefield. A gunshot sounds, and the soldier falls from his perch atop the horse. A rebel stands from a crouch behind a wagon wheel. He loots the soldier’s pockets and eats his food, using the man’s chest as a table. But when the soldier makes a tortured sound, the rebel finds the compassion within him to take him to a doctor’s tent that just so happens to be right outside the house where General Lee is surrendering to General Grant. The rebel is disgusted and refuses to accept the rule of the Yanks, so he leaves his family and rides west. There he meets up with a wandering Sioux named Walking Coyote, and his personal journey truly begins.

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China Gate (1957)

Starring Gene Barry, Angie Dickinson, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Paul Dubov, Lee Van Cleef, George Givot, Gerald Milton, Neyle Morrow, Marcel Dalio, Maurice Marsac, Warren Hsieh, Paul Busch, James Hong

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: High. Sam Fuller.


It’s been about seven months since I did a Sam Fuller movie, so once again I find myself slacking off immensely on my review journey through his filmography. And every time after I finish a film I think, “Why did it take me so long to watch this?” I love Sam Fuller’s films more than I know how to communicate, and for some reason when I get infatuated with a filmmaker I have an in-born desire to stretch out seeing all of their movies for fear that one day there won’t be any more new ones to see. This is exactly the reason I haven’t seen every Kurosawa film, for example. It’s an irrational fear because when you get through them all, then you have the fun of re-watching them! But I resolve that in 2013 I will do my best to finish the series! Anyway, my personal neuroses aside, China Gate is a fantastic, underseen gem in the Fuller catalog, exhibiting just about everything fans have come to expect from the director.

Set during the end of the First Indochina War in Vietnam, China Gate is an action/adventure tale about a group of men on a mission to destroy an ammo depot. That’s the yarn in the broad sense, but the real tale is the story of Angie Dickinson and the lengths to which she’ll go for her child. She agrees to lead the men through enemy territory as she has developed a good rapport and reputation with the enemy forces through smuggling and prostitution. As I said, she’s a single mom willing to do anything necessary to provide for her child. The lead male of the group is her ex-husband Brock, a racist who left her upon seeing their son’s Asian eyes after he was born. Herein lies the true journey of China Gate, and while modern viewers will probably find it too exaggerated and heavy-handed, for the time it is yet another bold picture confronting hypocrisy and racism from Fuller.

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The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Starring Peter Cushing, Robert Urquhart, Christopher Lee, Hazel Court, Valerie Gaunt, Noel Hood, Melvyn Hayes, Paul Hardtmuth, Fred Johnson

Directed by Terence Fisher

Expectations: Moderate. I’m excited to finally watch a Hammer movie after years of buildup, but I’m trying to remain grounded.


For my first Hammer Horror movie experience, I figured I’d begin at the film that started it all, The Curse of Frankenstein. Would you expect me to do anything else? Hammer had done some similar productions prior to this, but The Curse of Frankenstein was their first horror film in color and the one that kicked off their very successful series of revisionist horror films featuring the classic monsters. As such, it is a very impressive, competent movie, exhibiting quality filmmaking from every corner.

At this point in my life, I feel like I’ve seen enough Frankenstein movies. They are all relatively similar, and what is different usually isn’t different enough to care about. This is a big reason why I never actively pursued these Hammer Horror movies, because at some level I felt they’d just be simple retellings of the classic Universal movies, albeit in color with more daring gore. This is where The Curse of Frankenstein sets itself apart though, because in spite of all the odds stacked against it in my head, the film has such an interesting take on the story that it is not only worth watching, this is quite possibly my favorite Frankenstein of all. It definitely blows the 30s Universal movie out of the water for me, no disrespect to that movie intended. It is iconic and all that, but it can’t hang with this version of the tale in my eyes.

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