Sunday, April 05, 2015

Missing No Longer: THE QUIET GUN (1957) and BARQUERO (1970)

Quite an eventful month for Western fans.  Within a four week period, two long requested cult favorites will finally be surfacing on DVD and Blu-Ray.  As luck would have it, both films star two of the Golden Boot Awards' inaugural class: legendary badass Lee Van Cleef and the great Forrest Tucker, who needs no introduction here.

Tuck was still known for playing truculent villains and taciturn heroes when he starred in Fox's RegalScope feature THE QUIET GUN in 1957.  (Not for long; his image-changing roles in AUNTIE MAME and THE MUSIC MAN were only a year away.) While his Republic vehicles had bigger budgets and his British science fiction efforts (THE CRAWLING EYE) are better known, for my money THE QUIET GUN is Forrest Tucker's best leading role, period.

Tucker plays Rock River's Sheriff Brandon, a gruff but fair-minded man who, like Marshal Will Kane, upholds the law in a town that doesn't deserve his efforts.  Rock River is plagued by bigotry and corruption, and those two elements collide to take the lives of a city attorney and Brandon's estranged friend (Jim Davis).  It's up to the Sheriff to stand alone against vigilante justice and to investigate the sinister motives behind unwarranted harassment (for "moral" reasons, mind you) that resulted in tragedy.

THE QUIET GUN was adapted from the novel Law Man by Lauran Payne, whose OPEN RANGE MEN was filmed with much greater success at the box office some forty-six years later.  While THE QUIET GUN found little notice initially, its reputation has grown over the years.  Toby Roan calls THE QUIET GUN "maybe the best of the RegalScope Westerns" and DVD Talk's Adam Tyner and High-Def Digest's Matthew Hartman are among others sharing my enthusiasm for it.  Thanks to Olive Films, THE QUIET GUN is now out on both DVD and BluRay as of March 31.  Mara Corday and Kathleen Crowley also star.

Jim Davis and Mara Corday in THE QUIET GUN
If THE QUIET GUN isn't the DVD release that I've been waiting on the longest, the month's other new arrival almost certainly is: 1970's BARQUERO, which will be coming to us courtesy of Kino Lorber on April 28th.

BARQUERO was the very first film review here at the Horn Section, and I've revisited it since to sing the praises of Marie Gomez for Forgotten Films' Crushathon.  Tucker and Van Cleef co-starred for the first time in thirteen years, with billings reversed.  By 1970, it was Van Cleef who was playing tight-lipped leads, with BARQUERO being his triumphant return to American films after six star-making years in Italian westerns.

No surprise that the ultraviolent BARQUERO is heavily influenced by the films Van Cleef became famous for.  There's also an unmistakable WILD BUNCH vibe, and you'd be hard pressed to find more of a "guy movie" cast.   Formidable (if mentally unstable) opposition to Van Cleef is provided by Peckinpah's go-to actor, Warren Oates.  Oates' right-hand man is Sinbad himself, Kerwin Mathews.  Armando Silvestre and John Davis Chandler (another Peckinpah regular) are among Oates' mercenaries, and Mariette Hartley provides temptation for our antihero.

BARQUERO ended up being Forrest Tucker's final theatrical western, and the ant-eating, bearded Mountain Phil was one of his best supporting roles.  He's just as violent as the two leads, able to smile affably mere seconds after slicing a man's throat.  Director Gordon Douglas was a last-minute replacement for Robert Sparr, who was tragically killed in a plane crash while scouting Colorado locations for the film on August 28, 1969.  Cinematographer Gerald Finnerman was the sole survivor of that crash (spending several years in full metal body brace afterwards).

Despite the appeal of its cast, BARQUERO was even more neglected than THE QUIET GUN, as it was never even released on VHS in the U.S. before this month.  In fact, it was largely ignored altogether, until Showtime and Encore Westerns began airing it in the 2000's, earning the film its long-deserved cult following and eventual home video release.

I didn't see a single review written in 1970 that made note of BARQUERO as a Vietnam allegory.  Hartman has a another take, seeing an Old Testament theme in the proceedings.   Patrick Bromley at DVD Verdict and Ian Jane at DVD Talk have offered their reviews this week as well.  My 2006 review is here, and I have to say it's a proud moment for the Section to have our very first spotlighted film out on DVD and BluRay on April 28th.  If the print on MGM HD Channel is any indication, the release should look fantastic.

More Film and TV reviews to come, as always!

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