Intriguingly, Radically… Passive? THE QUIET GUN (1957), New On Blu!

The Quiet Gun released on March 31 from Olive Films.

50’s westerns are a dime a dozen, so it takes a little extra something for one to stand out.

At first, The Quiet Gun doesn’t necessarily seem to possess that special trait. Aside from the sight of gunslinger Lee Van Cleef riding into town and stirring up trouble (we’ll get back to him) and a strange shift in aspect ratio, the opening tone doesn’t feel much different than a TV western, a low-key episode projected in widescreen — and if western films were a dime a dozen, TV episodes were ten for a penny.

But once The Quiet Gun starts to picks up, what emerges is a thoughtful and sometimes quite clever film, not unlike a less grim High Noon.

Sheriff Carl Brandon (F Troop’s Forrest Tucker) is a bit passive: sensible, tough, and eager to keep the peace in a rough-and-tumble environment. Tucker is something of a revelation to me. He’s like an early prototype of Gene Hackman, in part due to their looks but mainly because their vocal deliveries are so similar.

A chain of events is set off when the town’s moralizing busybodies take umbrage at local rancher Ralph Carpenter (Jim Davis) for keeping a pretty young squaw in his home. The pair are not married, and the girl is considerably his junior. Sheriff Brandon, a good friend of the accused, shrugs off the formal complaints that are lodged, but the concerned townsfolk convince city attorney Steven Hardy to formally serve papers to Ralph. As the two men argue, the foolish lawyer angrily goes for his rifle and is immediately shot dead for his trouble.

The audience can clearly see that Hardy went for his gun first, which makes Ralph’s retaliation self defense, but the angry townsfolk immediately assume that he murdered Hardy in cold blood, and aim to see him hang.

This moral frenzy is whipped up and egged on by a pair of ruffians who want to clear Carpenter off his land for their own purposes, which brings to mind the film’s biggest problem: the villains are weak. Their goals and plan are loosely defined. Lee Van Cleef is the film’s heavy, but he’s given little to do. Their strategy is a fairly passive one, so aside from a couple moments of menace, it’s not until the film’s final shootout that he really gets any action.

The rest of the picture finds Sheriff Brandon locked in a struggle against the citizens of his own town: first in trying to protect his charge, then, having failed to do so, to prosecute the lynch mob that has taken the law into their own hands — with popular opinion on their side.

Like High Noon five years earlier, our Sheriff finds himself standing up for justice against the tide, trying desperately to enlist help in a town that doesn’t want to provide any. He’s not entirely alone, though — he’s joined by his slow-witted but stout-hearted friend, Sampson (common Western character actor Hank Worden, perhaps best known as Mose from The Searchers), and he rather ingeniously tricks the town leaders into helping him. Lighter scenes like this keep The Quiet Gun from being as dour as High Noon (which is not a knock against that film). Another recurring gag has the town’s opportunistic mortician dressing in his finery whenever he smells a fight coming, eager to claim some new business.

The Quiet Gun doesn’t reach the lofty heights of the genre’s best titles, and lacks the bombast of more action-oriented adventures, but has its own merits and deserves better than to be forgotten to history. It’s got a fine cast and is an enjoyable tale, but more importantly, it offers something quite different from the typical films of its kind. Most characters of this mold are in your face, enforcing their own brand of the law with aggressiveness. In a genre where the ends seem to justify the means, how many heroic sheriff characters have violated basic rights and freedoms by moralizing, arresting without a legal cause, searching without a warrant, or enforcing illegal “no guns in town” policies? The Quiet Gun bucks this trend with an unusual message: Keep your nose out of other people’s affairs, respecting their lifestyle and choices.

The Package

The Quiet Gun comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films. This is the film’s home video debut in an optical format. Per Olive’s modus operandi of offering lesser-known films in no-frills editions, additional features are neither offered or expected… though it would be nice if they started to include trailers.

The disc comes housed in a flat-spined Blu-ray case and features a handsome minimalistic artwork on the cover. I really like the artwork, which references the original poster without using it directly.

The transfer looks very nice, aside from one odd formatting issue: during the opening titles, the picture shifts to a smaller image — not a different aspect ratio, but a “zoom out” which shows displays black bars on all 4 sides. Obviously I’ve never seen this screened in its original format so it’s possible this is inherent to the source, but… I can’t begin to imagine why that would be the case.

Note the shrunken appearance as compared to the other screenshots.

Special Features and Extras


A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon:
The Quiet Gun — [Blu-ray] | [DVD]

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