Last Train from Gun Hill
John Sturges directs this action-packed western that is better on suspense than developing its sketchy characters–the drama is shallow and forced, though admittedly somewhat enjoyable.
It’s similar in theme and mood to the much superior 3.10 to Yuma and is a follow-up to star Kirk Douglas’s and John Sturges’s commercial success of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. It’s literately written by Les Crutchfield and James Poe. On a deserted trail returning from the reservation after visiting her folks is Native American Catherine Morgan and her nineyear-old son Petey.
Two drunken cowhands, Rick Belden (Earl Holliman) and his friend Lee Smithers, harass Catherine with nasty sexual comments and when she whips one of them and tries to outrace them, they overtake her buggy and rape and murder her in the woods (takes place off screen). Petey steals one of their horses and ride into Pawlee to report it to his father, Marshal Matt Morgan (Kirk Douglas).
Morgan recognises the expensive saddle as belonging to his old friend from his outlaw younger days, Craig Belden (Anthony Quinn), who owns a big spread outside of the neighbouring town of Gun Hill.
Beldon obviously failed in his bullying efforts to raise his son proper. Morgan takes the train to Gun Hill to question Beldon about the saddle. On the train he meets the beautiful Linda (Carolyn Jones), who warns him that Beldon is a powerful man who controls the town. What he doesn’t know is that Linda is Beldon’s long-suffering abused mistress.
At their meeting, after intensive questioning it soon becomes evident that his son and his son’s friend are guilty, but Beldon refuses to turn over his son and their friendship is challenged. Morgan declares he’ll be taking his prisoners back on the nine o’clock train, the last train from Gun Hill, despite his interference. In the end, Morgan is alone as Belden’s henchmen try to keep the marshal from making the arrest, only Linda helps by passing him a loaded shotgun when he’s outnumbered.
The film comes with no surprises. Douglas makes for a tough-minded marshal, Holliman makes for a sniveling rapist and Quinn makes for an energetic ranchman. The film makes for a lively two-dimensional story about a brave man on a mission who is determined to succeed against severe odds, but the story never moves into deeper territory. JK