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The Gunfighter Criterion Blu-ray Review

“The Gunfighter” is one of the greatest western films.

In 1950’s “The Gunfighter,” the William Bowers and William Sellers scripted story revolves around Jimmy Ringo- the titular quick shooter. At one time he was a cocky gunfighter, but he has changed into a mild mannered man who would rather avoid conflict. Unfortunately, that seems impossible as showoffs want to test his worth, 3 brothers are seeking revenge against him, a man (Jerry) is targeting him for death and the entire town of Cayenne has turned into a voyeuristic circus with his presence. All Jimmy wants to do is meet his former lover (Peggy) and his son, but will he be able to?

While beloved by western devotees, this Henry King directed classic western doesn’t get as much ink as say “The Searchers” or “Shane,” but it deserves more attention. Instead of being a western focused on gunfights and action, it’s a character based piece that is small in scale. Much of the story takes place in a single town (more specifically a bar), but the writers ratchet up the tension as everything seems to be closing in on Jimmy. It’s almost a race against time story as Jimmy just wants to turn over a new leaf and talk to Peggy and his son all while various elements circle in on him. 

My personal favorite aspect of “The Gunfighter” is that our main character Jimmy Ringo is essentially cursed with notoriety. He’s always being challenged due to his fame and as such can’t live a normal life. There’s a real darkness and sadness to his character as he’s trapped by his own persona. It’s a truly fascinating character arc.

Speaking of Jimmy, Gregory Peck is in top form here as Jimmy. The actor is almost always fantastic in whatever he does, but I’d argue this is one of his best and most layered roles. Equally compelling here is Millard Mitchell who plays a Marshal that has a history with Jimmy. Their scenes together are electric and he has quite a character arc himself.


Presentation: 1.33:1 1080p. How does it look? The 4K digital restoration gives this B&W film a nice crisp new transfer.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? Fans can expect a nice clean audio experience. 
* A booklet featuring credits and an essay by film critic K. Austin Collins
* Optional English subtitles
* A newly recorded interview 23 minute interview with filmmaker/writer/archivist Gina Telaroli who talks about director Henry King and his filmography.
* A video essay by author and film historian J.E. Smyth who discusses editor Barbara McLean’s work (with an emphasis on “The Gunfighter”).
* Audio excerpts between Henry King and Thomas R. Stempel from 1971.
* Audio excerpts from 1970 between Barbara McLean and Thomas R. Stempel.

October 8, 2020 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I look forward to checking out the extras on this release when I get my own copy.

    Comment by Tom Tinkerson | October 18, 2020 | Reply

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