Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Gunfight (1971)

Director: Lamont Johnson

Writer: Harold Jack Bloom

Composer: Laurence Rosenthal

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Johnny Cash, Jane Alexander, Karen Black, Dana Elcar, Robert J. Wilke, Keith Carradine, Eric Douglas, Paul Lambert, Raf Vallone

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It was the first time they sold tickets to a gunfight. Winner takes all. Widow takes the body.

Plot: Two aging gunfighters in need of money come to an agreement to organize an actual showdown between them and sell tickets for it. The townsfolk is more than interested to see the "show".

My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

So I'm watching an episode of THE DICK CAVETT SHOW from '71 on YouTube where Dick spends an hour talking with Kirk Douglas.  This picture came up and it sounded like fun and being how YouTube has this movie in full free for nothing, here we are.  It's the first feature film financed by an American Indian tribe (The Jicarilla Apache Tribe in New Mexico).  The story sounded like it had some neat possibilities plus it's got Kirk Douglas facing off against Johnny Cash.  Karen Black hadn't hit the big time yet but she was certainly on her way having starred in FIVE EASY PIECES the year before.  Here's she plays Jenny, a prostitute who falls for her trick, Abe (Cash).  It's a thankless role but she does bring more to it than the role deserves.  Jane Alexander (as Nora, Will's (Douglas) wife) does a fine job, too.  Kirk Douglas brings it as usual but it's Johnny Cash that doesn't work so well for me.  He's way too dour.  I get that he's a defeated man but he's got no passion or fire in his belly or anything.  He's not all that bad but there's a stoic, wooden quality to his performance that made me long for someone with some acting chops.  It didn't help, either, that Abe and Will  concoct this scheme very early on in the film so you spend an hour after that building up to the duel which feels too long.  But the ending is great.  I can see how some folks would hate it but I thought it was ballsy as hell.  It grounded the picture and gave it some much needed weight.  I wouldn't tell anyone to watch it just for the last few minutes because there's a chance they'd dislike the movie even more but I found it to be a mature finish to a somewhat meandering ending.  The YouTube video above is the only one I could find in widescreen.  It's not available on DVD so this is your best bet even though the picture quality is OK and the audio worse.  But, hey, it's free.

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