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DeaconsDen Classic Reaction – Gun Fury

Directed by Raoul Walsh, Gun Fury is a revenge western that sees Rock Hudson as a man left for dead after a stagecoach robbery and sets out to find the men who did this to him. The gang has also kidnapped his fiancée played by Donna Reed who was coming off an Oscar winning role in From Here to Eternity.

Shot to take advantage of the new trend of 3D, Gun Fury was the only film of Walsh to use that technique, so it’s very much a pure studio western of the 1950s. However, I felt there was desire of the film to delve into the heavier aspects that would come to the genre later during the 60s. This thematic interest is in the form of the villain, Frank Slayton who is played by Phil Carey. Carey gives the best performance in the entire film. Slayton is a former Confederate soldier who not only lost the war, but has lost his way of life. He kidnaps Reed’s character Jenny due to her being a woman from the South because she reminds him of of the former life he lead. While I’ll not have sympathy for a character who fought for a cause to keep a race of people in chains, the character of Slayton gives this standard studio piece a layer beyond the 3D gimmick.

With such a compelling antagonist, one would expect an equally compelling protagonist. Sadly we don’t get that. Rock Hudson’s Ben is pretty much every western hero. He’s just out to get his girl. Also a former soldier, Ben has made the choice to become pacifist. Unfortunately, his choice is never challenged. Once he’s attacked, he becomes the standard revenge seeking man and nothing I made of this until the final confrontation. However, we do get a little more interesting with the deuteragonist of the story with Frank’s former partner Jess (Leo Gordon). Disgusted with Frank’s increasingly violet acts, Jess rebels and is also left to die. We get moments of a man who knows the part he played in harming others, but wants to start to make right. I think there might have been a subtext between Frank and Jess, but if there was, it’s not very strong and other films in this era have done it much better.

Gun Fury is an entertaining classical western adventure with beautiful settings and all the trappings you’re used to. Yet with a quite compelling villain and another secondary character with some depth, Walsh missed an opportunity to further push the genre forward with a more psychological examination. Gun Fury does enough to enjoy, but one wonders what could have been if it decided to go all in on the aftermath of the American Civil War with these individuals.

2 responses to “DeaconsDen Classic Reaction – Gun Fury”

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