FORTY GUNS (1957). Director/writer/producer: Samuel Fuller.
Joseph F. Biroc's sweeping, beautiful, CinemaScope photography is one of the major assets of this highly unusual and generally unpredictable western starring Barry Sullivan as a U.S. Marshal named Griff Bonnell. Griff comes to town with his two brothers Wes (Gene Barry) and Chico (Robert Dix), and comes into contact -- and conflict -- with powerful rancher Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck). John Ericson is Jessica's swaggering, nasty, out of control brother Brockie, who takes a terrible vengeance on the Bonnell boys. There are very good performances in this from all the named principals, but Dean Jagger is especially noteworthy as the sheriff who has an unrequited yen for Jessica. Eve Brent has a nice turn as the gal-- handy with a gun herself -- that Wes falls in love with. There's a terrific scene with a tornado that nearly sweeps Griff and Jessica into the next world, as well as some suspenseful gun battles. Forty Guns just misses being a really great picture; one senses some important scenes were shortened or left on the cutting room floor. Still, it's a pleasant surprise. Barney's (Jidge Carroll) song numbers are okay but a little disconcerting; this was his only film.
Verdict: Flavorful tale of the old west. ***.