The Fastest Gun Alive Blu-ray Review: A Compelling Western

Based on Frank D. Gilroy’s teleplay The Last Notch, Russell Rouse’s The Fastest Gun Alive is a compelling western that shows the collision of fates between one man living under the expectations of being the best gunslinger and another man whose obsession is becoming the best gunslinger.

Outlaw Vinnie Harold (Broderick Crawford) leads a pair of rough-looking cowboys, Taylor Swope (John Dehner) and Dink Wells (Noah Beery Jr.). Vinnie is obsessed with proving he’s the fastest gun alive and calls out Fallon (Walter Coy), who some have given that designation. Fallon has no interest in drawing with a stranger until Vinnie gives him no alternative. After killing Fallon, Vinnie pays for his headstone and wants it to state Fallon “was killed by the fastest gun there is.” To Vinnie’s chagrin, a blind man tells him there’s someone faster, “there always is,” but offers no name.

George Temple (Glenn Ford), who has a few notches on his gun handle, is secretly target shooting. He and his pregnant wife Dora (Jeanne Crain) run the Cross Creek general store. He is very anxious, and his wife doesn’t think he’s content running the store. Plus, men in town aren’t sure what to make of George as he doesn’t drink alcohol or wear a gun like they do.

After repeatedly hearing stories about Vinnie killing Fallon, he boils over and let’s it be known he can’t stand hearing any more. He gets drunk at the bar and tells the men there he’s “the fastest gun alive.” He then proves it to the delight of the townsfolk, but Dora knows the kind of attention that will bring, the kind it always brings, which is why they have moved so often.

After giving up his gun to the minister during Sunday service, George and Dora decide to leave town. Because they have been such good neighbors, it’s requested they stay and all the residents swear to God they won’t speak of it again.

Vinnie and his gang rob a bank and are chased by a posse. They come to Cross Creek looking for new horses while everyone is at church. They bust into a bar and find Bobby, the bar owner’s young son, skipping church. As the outlaws brag about Vinnie, Bobby reveals the fastest gun lives in town. Although his gang want to head out before the posse arrives, Vinnie is adamant about drawing against this man.

At first, the townsfolk are willing to stand by George, thinking the outlaws will eventually leave, but after the threat of burning down the whole town, they want George out in the street. However, George reveals he’s scared and doesn’t want to fight, informing the townsfolk, and viewers, his compelling backstory. The expected showdown has an unexpected yet completely satisfying resolution, as does the film’s story.

Glenn Ford gives a great performance of a man, pretending to be meek while tortured by his history. Jeanne Crain is very believable as the caring wife, who finally reaches the end of her rope when the man she loves refuses to change. Broderick Crawford is well-suited as the boisterous braggart, who suffers from his one-track mind. Russ Tamblyn plays Eric, who has little to do with the plot. He gets a dance scene that is over the top and unrealistic for both the setting and within the film, but he executes it so well, the enjoyment it creates makes up for its incongruity.

The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The image delivers a good spectrum of grays and has a sharp focus that allows viewers to see the fine texture details in the costumes, props, and sets. The layer of film grain looks natural and not tampered with.

The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and plays louder than my usual listening setting. Had to lower the volume 10 notches because Andre Previn’s score blasted out of the speaker. Once adjusted, the score has good fidelity, the dialogue is clear, and the gunfire blasts sufficiently. There is a faint hiss on the track.

The Special Features are the trailer and two Tom & Jerry cartoons from 1956.

Blue Cat Blues (7 min) – Good grief, this might be the odd Tom & Jerry cartoon considering how dark it is. Jerry delivers internal narration (voiced by Paul Frees), which is weird enough. Tom is suicidal over falling for and losing a gal cat to rival cat Butch. In flashback, Jerry tells the story of how they end on the train tracks in the present. The quiet whistle in the background signals the end is near. Clearly, writers-directors William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were going through some things.

Down Beat Bear (6 min) – A bear, who dances when he hears music, has escaped from the carnival. There’s a rewards, which Tom wants, but once the bear arrives on scene, Jerry finds ways to play music, which leads to the bear dancing with Tom.

While “The Fastest Gun Alive” is a dangerous title to hold, it’s a wonderful title to own. The Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray offers a good HD presentation. Be quick on the draw and add this video library.

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Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site.

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