Gunslinger

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“Despite the director, nothing memorable in this quickie.”

While Corman is better known now as a producer of schlock-horror, he has tried his hand at just about every genre in his time. This was his last stab at the Western, with Garland playing Rose Hood, who takes over as the marshal of Oracle, after her husband is gunned down. However, she incurs the wrath of local saloon-owner Erica Page (Hayes, best known for the title role in Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman), who is running a property-acquisition scheme, based on her hopes for the railroad to come to town. She brings hired killer Cane Miro (Ireland) up from Tombstone, only for him to fall for his intended victim, who is unaware of his mission. Which is surprising, since he is dressed from head to toe in black – even at age seven, when I used to watch The Virginian with my father, I knew this indicated an utterly irredeemable nature.

Garland and Hayes are generally decent enough, but the dialogue, especially between Rose and Cane, is painful to listen to. It’s clear the writers are aiming for wittily romantic banter, and fail miserably, on every level. Shot in seven days, Corman didn’t even let Hayes breaking her arm, falling off a horse, stop the shoot – he filmed some closeups while they waited for an ambulance. Hey, it’s not like the actress was going anywhere. While both Garland and Hayes are fine in their roles, none of the potentially transgressive elements here are exploited, and the poverty-row aspects are so painfully obvious as to be a distraction.

The film does finally get a certain momentum going in the final reel, where all the forces in the town end up gunning each other down; viewers, by that stage, may have resorted to looking for whatever entertainment can be found on their mobile phones. Cult favourite Dick Miller briefly appears as the Pony Express rider, and three years later, Garland would become one of the first TV action heroines, as undercover cop Casey Jones in Decoy. This film, however, would go on to get torn a new one by MST3K during their fifth season; that is likely a significantly better source of entertainment.

Dir: Roger Corman
Star: Beverly Garland, John Ireland, Allison Hayes, Jonathan Haze

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