Forty Guns

Barbara Stanwyck in Forty Guns (dir. Samuel Fuller, 1957).

Gene Barry, Robert Dix, and Barry Sullivan.

Sandra Wirth.

Barbara Stanwyck's role in Forty Guns is in some ways similar to the part she played a few years earlier in Anthony Mann's The Furies: a gutsy frontier matriarch who rules her ranch with an iron (albeit nicely manicured) hand. In both films, she's the core of emotional energy--her presence is inimitably, passionately electric. She vies compellingly with Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar for the distinction of ultimate western dragon lady.

The plot here is almost shapeless. It's been about a month now since I watched it, and I couldn't tell you the storyline if my life depended on it. What I remember is Fuller's riveting staging, and the overall mood of psychological wryness translated into kinetic strings of sexually charged code-images. If Hitchcock had ever done a western, it might have resembled this, at least visually. (Wow--don't you wish Hitchcock had done a western?)


Jordan said...

I want to make some smart-ass comment like "When didn't Hitchcock do a western" but I don't really want to make a comment like that. But isn't it all a big shoot out in the middle of town for Hitchcock, even if it's man versus cropduster or shut-in versus killer, or professor versus Leopold and Loeb, or fish versus sparkly jewelry... No, I still don't want to make a comment like that.

Ed Howard said...

"sexually charged code-images"

Yes! That's what this film is all about, and why I love it so much. Indeed, in some ways that sums up what I love so much in the best old Hollywood cinema -- the ways in which, deprived of direct dealings with sexuality, the most inventive directors of the time instead inscribed it directly into their images. Certainly the through-the-gun-barrel shot above is a great example, where an exchange of lustful looks is reconfigured as a process of aiming or targeting at the object of one's desire. A great film, although I wish the studio-mandated final few seconds had been snipped out.

phaneronoemikon said...

sounds good..

? :)