The Gunfight at Dodge City (Blu-ray)

&#13 A major disappointment, The Gunfight at Dodge City (1959) opens with a really promising pre-titles scene but the remainder of the film is depressingly conventional, derivative, and clumsily scripted. The gravitas underrated star Joel McCrea projects as Bat Masterson is its only true asset. &#13

&#13 The film unimaginatively seems derived from 3 main influences. The title recalls Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, a massive success released 12 months earlier, and which featured Masterson (Kenneth Tobey), albeit it in a tiny part. The Dodge City setting immediately brings to thoughts the common radio and, by this time, Tv plan of Gunsmoke. (Curiously, on the Tv show the setting is usually referred to as “Dodge,” while in the film it’s often “Dodge City.”) In The Gunfight at Dodge City, balding, clean-shaven actor John McIntire wears a gray wig and mustache to play Dodge’s lone doctor, who bears a outstanding resemblance to Gunsmoke‘s Doc Adams (Milburn Stone). (The IMDb adds “the climatic gunfight requires spot in Dodge City and is strikingly related to the opening in Gunsmoke” but that’s incorrect. It is shot and cut together really differently.) &#13

&#13 Ultimately, there is, of course, Bat Masterson the Television series starring Gene Barry which had debuted on NBC the previous year. Oddly, even so, where the Tv series is vaguely precise in depicting Masterson as a dandy, in the movie he’s fairly significantly the usual world-weary Joel McCrea cowboy, with nearly no fidelity to the historical Masterson. &#13

&#13 A Kino Lorber title licensed from MGM, The Gunfight at Dodge City was initially a United Artists release from The Mirisch Business (one year prior to their The Magnificent Seven) and filmed in color and CinemaScope. &#13

Half-sheet poster, which appears to be inviting moviegoers to exclaim “Hridlfatataat!”

&#13 The prologue opens about a campfire (significantly of the film is unconvincingly shot day-for-evening) where straightforward-minded Billy (Wright King) asks Masterson what it’s like to kill a man. In a myth-busting monologue, McCrea’s Masterson grimly describes some thing akin to Charles Bronson’s initial act of vigilantism in Death Want, concluding “and when it really is more than you step outdoors to throw up.” So far, so very good. &#13

&#13 Following the titles though it really is all downhill. In Hays City, Kansas, Bat wants to get back the saloon he lost to Ben Townsend (Walter Coy) in a card game. Minutes soon after his arrival, Masterson kills U.S. Cavalry sergeant Ernie King (Charles Horvath) in self-defense, and so higher-tails it to Dodge where his brother, Ed (Harry Lauter), is the legally powerless town marshal. The existing sheriff, whom Ed is operating against in an upcoming election, is gunfighter and saloon owner Jim Regan (Don Haggerty), who desires Dodge to stay lawless due to the fact of the protection funds he and his cronies rake in.&#13

&#13 Bat delivers to acquire a half-interest in the Lady Gay Saloon, which has couple of clients considering that proprietress Lily’s (Nancy Gates) husband was gunned down after refusing to pay Regan protection cash. The renovated Lady Gay is instantly the hottest (and only truthful) saloon in town, upsetting Regan’s plans. Regan tells Bat that he’ll be dead by sun-up. &#13

&#13 As an alternative, Ed is shot in the back, murdered not by Regan’s two henchmen getting into the saloon from the back (a single is played by Timothy Carey) but rather by gambler Dave Rudabaugh (Richard Anderson), apparently upset over the death of Ernie King, his cousin, with Rudabaugh shooting via a jarred window. Even so, Bat wrongly assumes Regan is accountable for the murder, a misunderstanding that drives the bulk of the plot, in the end major nowhere. &#13

&#13 Bat decides to run for Sheriff in King’s location, even though more dead-finish subplots are introduced: Billy needs a third act rescue right after accidentally killing (offscreen) a Hays City deputy without having warning Rudabaugh tries to rape Lily in her bed even although the two characters are virtual strangers Bat falls for his late brother’s fiancée, Pauline (Julie Adams), daughter of the pious local minister (James Westerfield), but she’s understandably resistant to Bat’s interest. And why does Ben Townsend alter the name of his saloon from “Bat Masterson’s” to “Ben Thompson’s?” Does not he know how to spell his own name? &#13

&#13 McCrea is excellent but like the rest of the cast he’s wasted. Julie Adams specifically is saddled with a absolutely nothing element, the type of role in inexpensive Westerns that launched her career a decade earlier. Anderson, later Oscar Goldman on The Six Million Dollar Man and its enduring spinoffs, at least gets to play a colorful character, but his actions lack explanation, let alone motive. Who is this guy?&#13

&#13 Video &amp Audio&#13

&#13 Filmed in CinemaScope with original prints by De Luxe, MGM’s transfer of The Gunfight at Dodge City looks good, though director Joseph M. Newman (This Island Earth) uses the format unimaginatively and there are couple of close-ups. Frustratingly, far more than a few Kino releases of MGM-licensed films inexplicably have audio synch concerns. Here, the audio appears to be about six frames (a single-quarter of a second) ahead of the picture. A lot of viewers won’t notice this, at least not most of the time, but it caught this reviewer’s eye. Otherwise the two. mono DTS-HD Master Audio is okay. The disc is region A encoded. No alternate audio or subtitle alternatives. &#13

&#13 Extra Functions&#13

&#13 The lone supplement is a trailer for the film, also in higher-def. &#13

&#13 Parting Thoughts&#13

&#13 1 of Joel McCrea’s last starring Westerns, The Gunfight at Dodge City is a significant disappointment, for hardcore Western fans only. Rent It. &#13

&#13 Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian and publisher-editor of Planet Cinema Paradise. His new documentary and newest audio commentary, for the British Film Institute’s Blu-ray of Rashomon, and commentary track for Arrow Video’s Battles without Honor and Humanity are newly accessible.&#13

What Do You Think?&#13

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