The Name's Callicut, Ransome Callicut
Whilst watching "The Man Behind the Gun" I couldn't but help think about a completely different genre of movie, in fact a franchise of movies because it reminded me of a James Bond movie. Of course "The Man Behind the Gun" came before Bond and is a western but here we have a top military man who goes undercover to discover who are stock piling guns and who is behind an insurrection plot, all of which is quite Bond like. And it goes further as we have Randolph Scott playing basically an undercover agent, tall, handsome, heroic and he even has his share of women including one who happens to be part of the baddies. But where as the James Bond movies tended to be exciting I can't say the same about "The Man Behind the Gun" because it ended up a very average western helped to be average and not worse by Scott's presence.
With intelligence showing that there is a plot for the southern half of California to become a slate state Major Ransome Callicut (Randolph Scott - Sugarfoot) goes undercover masquerading as a school teacher to try and discover who is behind the plans. Having stumbled across a hidden stockpile of arms Callicut reveals his true identity to Capt. Roy Giles (Philip Carey) and takes control of the nearby Army post. With the aid of old friends Olaf Swenson (Alan Hale Jr.) and Monk Walker (Dick Wesson - Calamity Jane) he sets about unmasking the ringleader whilst trying to avoid being killed by those who become worried by his presence.
Now I am going to be honest, the plot to "The Man Behind the Gun" is a mess and whilst in reality is quite simple is difficult to follow and it's difficult to follow because there are too many characters. So okay part of what should be the attraction is working out who is behind the insurrection plot and so numerous characters are required but it ends up pointless because there are no real clues to follow. Instead we watch Major Callicut arrive in Los Angeles and go about his business, winding some people up until miraculously he works out who is behind everything. It's a shame as a bit more solid writing and we could have had on our hands a clever and original movie which is as much secret agent movie as western.
But as already mentioned there is very little solid writing so the drama unfolds in a very loose manner with things happening which have very little connection to each other. And whilst we have Callicut trying to uncover who is behind it all we also have school teacher Lora Roberts falling for him, except she is meant to be with Capt. Roy Giles who doesn't trust Callicut or believe who he says he is as he masquerades quite weakly as a replacement school teacher. It is a case that it becomes so messy with the story flying off on tangents as well as throwing in some mild humour that it becomes a chore to try and follow. And as such you end up watching it for the action which frankly is of the same calibre seen in countless other 50s westerns.
The saving grace to "The Man Behind the Gun" is in the casting of Randolph Scott because he fits the bill of a man undercover, tall, handsome, heroic and with an eye for the ladies. In fact if they had been making James Bond movies back in the 50s Scott would have made for quite a good choice. Sadly the rest of the cast are just average with both Patrice Wymore and Lina Romay adding a touch of beauty whilst Dick Wesson and Alan Hale Jr. add some amusement. But the trouble is that because the storyline is a mess and the bad guy isn't revealed till well into the second half the bad guy, and I won't reveal the surprise, is just not bad enough.
What this all boils down to is that "The Man Behind the Gun" whilst an interesting idea ends up just another run of the mill western. And it is a western which relies on the likeability of Randolph Scott to make you watch as the actual storyline ends up both messy and dull.