The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Friday, November 15, 2013

Hostile Guns

The name A.C. Lyles doesn't exactly ring a bell with famous western directors/producers. He's no John Ford, no Budd Boetticher, no Sergio Leone. Why no notoriety? Short answer? He didn't produce any classics, maybe not even any just old fashioned, good flicks. I caught 1967's Hostile Guns on a recent airing on a movie channel -- a Lyles production -- and let's just say it's.....well....not so good.

Readying to transport prisoners to the Huntsville Prison, Marshall Gid McCool (George Montgomery) is struggling to find a deputy willing to travel with him. No one is willing to take on the dangerous job -- even if it pays well -- until McCool meets Mike Reno (Tab Hunter), a young, fiery cowboy thrown into a jail cell for starting a fight in the town's saloon. With the promise of $50 for his services, Reno agrees, signing on as a deputy and immediately slugs it out with the prisoner they're transporting, a convicted murderer, Hank Pleasant (Leo Gordon), who intends to make the trip just as difficult as possible. With a specially outfitted wagon, McCool and Reno head out on the trail, picking up prisoners as they go at different stops on the way to Huntsville, including a female prisoner, Laura Mannon (Yvonne De Carlo), another convicted murderer. The new arrival may be the least of their concerns though, both McCool and Reno quickly realizing they're being followed. Who's trailing them?

I guess it should have clicked for me early on. I've been watching westerns since I was a little kid, and when this one popped up on the TV schedule, I should have put it together. At no point in my tries to watch as many westerns as I can had I ever come across this western from director R.G. Springsteen. No mention, N-O-N-E, for good or bad. Nonetheless, I plodded on. After all, it sounded promising with a more than respectable cast. Yeah, that's about all it's good. This is a western that at 91 minutes reeks of cheapness. I'm thinking total budget here couldn't have been more than a couple bucks here and there, and that money went to assembling the cast, the best thing going here by far. Where to start, where to start?

Made on a small budget doesn't/shouldn't be a deal breaker. On the contrary, it can be nothing but a positive. For 'Hostile' though, huge stretches of the already dull 91-minute flick is simply shots of McCool, Reno and the wagon riding through the rocky, desert mountains. Then, we get a follow-up shot of their pursuers. I swear the angles of the shot were tweaked because it felt like I saw the same rock formation one time after another. Same for the follow-up shot of those evil bad guys!!! My personal favorite in the Badness Department is the fight scenes. Usually a halfway decent movie does its best to delicately transition the shots of the stunt doubles fighting with those of the actors "fighting." This was almost amateurish in that department. Not only don't the stunt doubles resemble who they're posing as, the fight scenes are so poorly edited you clearly see the face of the doubles. Get a sample in the link below.

If there is anything to remotely recommend here, it's not surprisingly the cast. They're almost all stock characters you've seen before in any number of westerns, but they have their moments. A familiar face if not a star, Montgomery is solid as the stoic, very capable marshal who's working with a real bad hand. Hunter is actually pretty respectable for the most part, only going high up on the Annoying Meter late. Their veteran law officer, young punk cowboy dynamic is good. Gordon does what he does best, growls and looks menacing as the brutal killer while De Carlo makes the most of her part as the society woman who's guilt or innocence is debatable. Brian Donlevy makes what amounts to a cameo as another marshal, while Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez (as a goat thief) and Robert Emhardt (as a corrupt railroad official) play two other prisoners being transported. John Russell plays Pleasant's pursuing brother, Aaron, James Craig playing his cousin, both looking to spring Pleasant. 

Familiar situations, bad stunt work, recognizable characters, none of them are deal-breakers for me with a western. Just plain boredom and laziness? Now we're talking. A B-western that uses the same stock footage over and over is just bad. How many times can we see Russell and Craig ride down the same hill? How much was actually filmed outdoors? Not much, most of the trail scenes relegated to indoor studio work. Mostly, it's just boring. There's lot of talking, intense staring, all of it building up to some sort of showdown that never comes to fruition. The finale is disappointing, and then it ends. Not very good.

Hostile Guns (1967): */****

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