THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE rode into the mists of Old Westernburg not long after its 1956 run and rarely slaps leather these days, as once-sparkly star Glenn Ford has dimmed in moviegoers memory and will mostly draw a blank look from people under fifty.
This modestly produced ($1,383,000), decently directed (Russell Rouse), 89-minute suspense play did well enough ($3,535,000) competing against at least two dozen outdoorsy sagas that year, including another, rather better Ford saddle-up, Jubal.
Caught living a lie about being the quickest draw in the land, otherwise peaceful storekeep Glenn (married to pretty Jeanne Crain) has to wrestle with his conscience (Ford did well playing this sort of anguished type of fella) and the hopes of terrified townspeople when nutjob psycho bank robber Broderick Crawford and his grimy buddies (John Dehner and Noah Beery Jr.) show up to find out who’s really top gun, threatening to burn the whole town unless satisfaction finds its target.
Many familiar faces in support, including 22-year old Russ Tamblyn, getting pushed into bigger things that year (including the neat The Last Hunt ), although in this story he’s mostly there to do a fancy dance number (on shovels, yet).
Crawford does his usual bellowing, with enough lung-force to knock peoples stetsons off, and he’s so burly (kindly put) that wags refer to this as The Fattest Gun Alive. He does get one of the better lines, after a bank clerk identifies him: “Vinnie Harold! I thought it was you“, sputters the clerk. Crawford calmly plugs him, tossing off “Now you can be positive!“
Most entertaining performance comes from a drolly threatening John Dehner, one of the most unsung and dependable character actors of the day. Between 1941 and 1988 he graced over 260 movies and TV episodes, as well as being a professional pianist and a former animator on both Fantasia and Bambi.
Cowering in the church, waiting for the lead to fly: Allyn Joslyn, Leif Erickson, J.M. Kerrigan, Virginia Gregg, Rhys Williams, John Doucette, Chubby Johnson, Paul Birch, John Dierkes, J.Pat O’Malley, Glenn Strange and Dub Taylor. Now–draw!