Red Sundown (1956) starring Rory Calhoun, Martha Hyer, Dean Jagger, Robert Middleton, James Millican, Lita Baron, Grant Williams, Trevor Bardette directed by Jack Arnold Movie Review

Red Sundown (1956)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Rory Calhoun in Red Sundown (1956)

Calhoun's Gunfighter

Gunman Alec Longmire (Rory Calhoun) realises that his future is grim as a gunman especially when friend and veteran gunfighter Bud Purvis (James Millican) dies whilst trying to hold off two brothers who are after them. But when all you know is how to draw quick and shoot straight finding work is tough. In the town of Durango his particular skills could come in useful as there is trouble between cattle baron Rufus Henshaw (Robert Middleton) and the small farmers which Sheriff Murphy (Dean Jagger) is unable to control and so makes Alec his deputy. It also happens that Murphy is the father of the attractive Caroline (Martha Hyer) who Alec takes a shine to. The question is, can a gunfighter ever change his ways?

That like so many westerns is the driving force of "Red Sundown" whether or not Alec having been made a deputy can change his ways and use his skills with the gun to bring law and order or whether or not he will go back to his killing ways. It is a theme which as I said has been the basis of many westerns and "Red Sundown" doesn't do anything with the idea which other westerns hadn't already been done. But don't let that put you off as "Red Sundown" is a solid 50s western which at a whisker over 80 minutes isn't long and director Jack Arnold keeps it moving so it never once becomes drawn out.

Dean Jagger and Martha Hyer in Red Sundown (1956)

Having said that the opening scenes as Alec and Bud end up hooking up certainly tries to explore the sad life of a gunfighter. We hear from Bud how other gunfighters they have known have been killed, how having been doing the job for a long time he has nothing to show for it and how if he could have his time again he would have found a job to work at. There is also the poignancy of all this as this was to be actor James Millican last movie dying at the age of 45 in 1955 before the movie premiered in 1956.

Aside from that well "Red Sundown" does have plenty of western cliches from the war between a land grabbing cattle baron and the small farmers to the attractive woman who Alex falls for. Like with the theme of going straight it is all familiar including much of the action although the opening scenes with Alec's escape by being buried so he can't be found is a little creative. And familiar is how all the characters and the performance are which means whilst the likes of Rory Calhoun, Martha Hyer and Dean Jagger all deliver solid western performances they are forgettable.

What this all boils down to is that "Red Sundown" is just another 1950's western which explore the theme of a gunfighter trying to go straight and whilst entertaining is nothing special.