Plot: What’s it about?
For reasons unknown, I had never heard of Last Train from Gun Hill before I received a review copy. With a name like Kirk Douglas at the top, that is all the more surprising. The film also stars Anthony Quinn and is a simple and effective western that is more than serviceable. I don’t rank it as one of the all-time greats, but it zips by and doesn’t ask too much of its audience. Hopefully it will find an audience now, several decades since its debut.
In what is a bit of a dark opening, we see the wife of Matt Morgan (Kirk Douglas) traveling with their young son, and she is being harassed by two men. They pursue her and this causes her carriage to turn over and we then see the men rape her, and this leads to her eventual death. Matt learns that the two men are fun the town of Gun Hill. This leads to a chat with his longtime friend Craig Belden (Anthony Quinn), who Matt confronts about the murder. Belden has some power in the town, and Matt knows that Belden’s son is the key suspect in what was done to his wife. The film then follows the path of Matt seeking vengeance and Craig trying to protect his son. It is simple and straightforward, but that works here. The plot is very to-the-point and concise that there isn’t a lot of meat on its bones.
The acting is all in fine form. Douglas has the usual stern look on his face for much of the film, and Quinn is great at the rancher who is stuck in the middle of a terrible situation. Certain elements echo 3:10 to Yuma (the original and remake) in the ticking clock scenario and especially when two characters are held up in a small room. I find both versions of Yuma to be far more effective, but this film works in its own way. It may lack sharp and witty dialogue and some of the tension, but it gives the audience enough to make us care. I also found the story to be a strong point here as I cared about the outcome, however predictable it may be.
Video: How’s it look?
From the Paramount Presents line, we get a nice 1.78:1 transfer that appears to have been cleaned up nicely, without compromising its intended look. Originally a VistaVision production, it lends itself nicely to the HD format. Some grain is maintained, but I feel that helps keep some of the intended grit to the picture. Viewers should feel pleased with these results.
Audio: How’s it sound?
We get a Dolby TrueHD 2.0 mono track that worked about as well as I expected it would. It may lack the range of more modern films, but it serves this one as it should. Vocals have the clarity and it kept me involved in the action.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Filmmaker Focus – Leonard Maltin on Last Train from Gun Hill – In this good, but too brief feature, the popular critic gives us some insight into the film and the era in which it was made. It’s only 7 minutes, but it’s a good one.
- Theatrical Trailers
The Bottom Line
While not one of the best westerns I’ve seen, this is still very effective and kept me with it. It features strong acting and a simply told story. It is at least worthy of a rental.