The Stranger Wore a Gun (1953)
I had a feeling I had already seen The Stranger Wore a Gun (1953), surprisingly I haven’t which was all the better, having a new Randolph Scott western to watch. My first thoughts were whether this was or not a much forgotten 3D film from the early fifties when Hollywood first experimented with the medium, which today has made great leaps, but its use is still questioned, seen very much as a novelty, rather an enhancing the film. Here it was very much a novelty from the very start, as the actors threw things at the camera, even taken aim at us too. That I could accept, a product of its time. It became more laughable in the chases scenes where rocks in the foreground that were clearly being held in front of the camera and moving as the camera does to follow the action. Still that aside it was a decent western.
Turning to the plot which holds up in spite of novelty 3D effects at the time kept me engaged. The civil war is coming to an abrupt and fiery end for the Confederates who raid and burn a town to the ground, with the assistance of one time spy Jeff Travis (Scott) who gets away his life.
Not far from him is the confident and infatuated Josie Sullivan (Claire Trevor) who we meet on a steamboat that is full of talk of the town that was destroyed. Will she be able to save the wanted man?
It turns out that he can, joining up with a gang who have their eyes on the local freighter and stagecoach company, which carries thousands of dollars worth a gold, something not to be ignored. Lead by Jules Mourret (George Maceady) whose gang of dangerous men include the likes of Dan Kurth (Lee Marvin) and Bull Slager (Ernest Borgnine) who don’t trust their newest member who from day one has the upper hand over them all. Working under another name, he works for the stage and freight company, earning their trust and respect. Relaying information of large values of gold leaving.
You could say is a shorter and less complex earlier version of For a Fistful of Dollars (1963) which saw a stranger pit two gangs against each other before making off himself with the money. But that is ten years later and before a Japanese take on the idea Yojimbo (1961) took and fleshed out to later take on iconic status back in the western.
It’s a solid western full of action as one man comes into town and turning things on their head, taking on the gangs at their own game. It’s nowhere near as tight as the latter incarnations of the same story. The focus is on Scott using his brain before Braun. There are some great set-pieces that bring the film alive, making you forgive the shoddy 3D which was very much still in its infancy as we you can see in the film. Having more fun than anything in an action heavy setting.