“The only crime of which a person must be ashamed and for which there must be retribution is a double-cross.” – Danny Peary, in a Cult Movies 2 essay on Rowland Brown’s Blood Money (1933)
His partners are Ralph Farley (Don Megowan) and Remington “Rem” Anderson (James Arness)—and though it’s all supposed to go smooth as silk, the robbery results in the wounding of Rem as the trio make their getaway. Rankin explains to Rem’s gal Janice (Angie Dickinson) that if they take him with them the injured Rem will just slow them down…so he goes with Plan B: they’ll leave Rem at the hideout, where he’s certain to be picked up by the posse on their trail.
The posse does not disappoint; they find Rem hiding under the porch of the hideout shack (nice try, Rem) and quickly haul him off to the calaboose. Rem is interrogated, but he remains mum: he’s not going to rat on his confederates, and as such he winds up doing a year-long stretch for robbery. (!@#$% activist judges…) Released from prison, Remington has a little score to settle with Rankin and Farley…and heads off in the direction of where they were last seen, courtesy of some information from his gunslinger pal Billy Deal (Michael Emmet).
Not that it’s not a low-budget western (this puppy was shot in nine days)—the cast is relatively small, and the set (much of this movie was filmed at the famed Jack Ingram Ranch in Woodland Hills, CA) looks like…well, pretty much a set. The pedigree of this film doesn’t suggest “B,” however; it was sired in the stables of Batjac Productions—the independent studio founded by John Wayne to release many of his movies; the same year Gun was released, the company also put out Good Bye, My Lady and Seven Men From Now. (So let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, since The Duke’s B-picture days were pretty much behind him at this point.)
Big Jim is pretty good in this film, playing Rem Anderson a lot like Matt Dillon…only with a bit of tarnish on the badge. The opening titles credit Angie Dickinson’s appearance as “And introducing Angie Dickinson” …which is a bit of a misnomer, since Ang had already racked up a few film and TV credits—no introduction was necessary. Dickinson is solid as Arness’ girlfriend…though personally if she had run out on me like she did Remington I don’t think I would have quite as forgiving.
The movie is nearly stolen by character veteran Emile Meyer as a laconic sheriff who’s perfectly content to let Wilke and Arness work out their differences…and then cart the survivor off to the hoosegow. Harry Carey, Jr. also does nice work as Meyer’s deputy; the scene where Sheriff Emile suggests that Harry go out and do a little fishing when he senses trouble coming from Arness’ direction is nicely done (he’s concerned he’ll lose his deputy in the shootout between Arness and Emmet).
Gun the Man Down was the first feature film to be directed by Andrew V. McLaglen (son of Victor); McLaglen not only enjoyed a long career helming episodes of TV westerns (chiefly Gunsmoke and Have Gun – Will Travel), but he also rode herd on a number of John Wayne westerns, notably McLintock! (1963), Chisum (1970), and Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973). Future director Burt Kennedy (Support Your Local Sheriff!) penned the screenplay (from a story by Sam Freedle), and if Gun has any weaknesses it’s that it ends a little too conventionally—a letdown from the man who made his mark working on those classic Ranown westerns like The Tall T (1957) and Ride Lonesome (1959).
Gun the Man Down was released to DVD in 2007, but it has since resurfaced on DVD and made its debut on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films (released last month, as a matter of fact). I was really taken aback by this one, because my first impression was that it was going to be a humdrum affair…but a great cast in front of the camera and first-rate workmanship behind makes it a worthwhile watch.