18 Apr 2010

Forty Guns

Forty Guns is a 1957 western filmed by Sam Fuller. I do not know a lot about Fuller except he made some films filled with the bizarre, randmomness and at time, a little bit of genius.

To help understand his process if may help to see a picture of him:

We know if Swordfishtrombones grew his hair out, starting smoking again and aged a few years, this would be his photofit.

Back to Forty Guns. Wow! What a western. Bearing all the hallmarks of a low budget cult western that sneaked past the big studio editing machine, its bursting to death with corn, conservative parody and sexual steam.

The Forty Guns are the 40 hired guns that Cattle-Range boss Barbara Stanwyck gallops and dines alongside. Enter Barry Sullivan and his brothers, US Marshalls with a warrant for one of Stanwyck's men. From then on its a zig-zagging affair which jumps from one set piece to another with giant metaphors grinding against self mocking dialogue almost too corny to believe ("I want to hold your trademark"..."Careful it may go off in your face").

Incoherent in a good way is feels like a film Sergio Leone or Corbucci might have seen and decided it opened the door to ripping on Ford and Hawks. Its sexuality is loud and proud while it has those themes of changing times which Peckinpah would perfect.

My only gripe would be that Stanwyck is not the domineering force she could have been. Unlike Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge in Johnny Guitar whose control over their men and worlds eventually destroys them, Babs quickly loses her masculinity to her need for a strong man who she can love. But who cares, in amongst the chaos of the film you are more interested in what will happen next.

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