Rory Calhoun co-produced this modest but predictable Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer oater about a professional gunslinger who tracks down an escaped murderer who was scheduled to hang at the outset of this tightly-paced western. Clocking in at a minimal 64 minutes, director Ray Nazarro's "The Hired Gun" is a tolerably entertaining horse opera. Some future television stars, including Chuck Connors and Vince Edwards, flesh out the predominantly masculine cast that look as seasoned as their saddles. As this saga unfolds in Beldon County, Texas, Judd Farrow (Chuck Connors before "The Rifleman") enters the dusty little town masquerading as a minister. He rescues convicted killer Ellen Beldon (Anne Francis of "Bad Day at Black Rock") from a date with the hangman. This hanging would have qualified as historic since Ellen would be the first woman to swing from a noose in Texas. It seems that Ellen killed her husband during an argument at a party. When everybody ventured outside to see what the commotion concerned, they found Ellen standing over her dead husband's body with a smoking revolver at her feet.
Veteran character actor John Litel of "Dodge City" (1939), who co-starred in other memorable Warner Brothers' westerns, like "Dodge City" (1939) and "San Antonio" (1945), plays Mace Beldon, the upset father of the deceased. He demands that his daughter-in-law get her pretty little neck stretched. After she escapes with Connors into the sanctuary of New Mexico, which refuses to extradite her, Litel hires swift-shooting gun hand Gil McCord (Rory Calhoun of "Massacre River") for $5000, and McCord is given a badge to make everything appear legitimate rather than like a kidnapping. McCord demands a $1000 in advance before he rides out, and Mace peels the greenbacks out of his wallet without complaint. "I want one thing understood," McCord stipulates, "I do this job alone—all of it." Interestingly, the first time that our hero lays eyes on Ellen, she is bent over, dragging a sack out of the barn with her butt aimed at him. Later, after McCord abducts Ellen and escorts her back to face justice, he begins to have doubts about her guilt. Eventually, McCord learns that Kel Beldon (Vince Edwards of "The Devil's Brigade") shot his own brother Cliff at point blank range during a face-to-face struggle at a barn dance in Indian Springs. According to Ellen, Kel and Cliff were half-brothers. Kel wanted desperately to inherit the family fortune, and he feared that Cliff would get it.
"Gun Glory" cinematographer Harold J. Marzoratti's widescreen black and white pictorial compositions are nothing short of splendid. The outdoors scenery is appropriately rugged, and the frontier towns look like they are on the frontier instead of a tree-planted studio back lot, so everything has a dusty, rough-hewn, realistic feel. Unfortunately, sometimes the principals appear with obvious backdrops substituting for the real thing. Francis is good as the female killer. Although Connors doesn't get as much screen time, he makes an indelible impression, while hot-headed Vince Edwards as Mace's son makes a suitable nemesis for Rory during the final quarter-hour. The real satisfaction of watching "The Hired Gun" is watching a supremely confident Rory Calhoun deliver another solid performance. Calhoun has presence, and you believe that he is as seasoned as he seems on the big screen. Finally, don't overlook Guinn "Big Boy" Williams of "Santa Fe Trail" in a minor supporting role as a tough hombre that Rory has to lash up with rawhide strips to sweat the truth out of him. This is pretty gruesome stuff when you think about one man torturing another. "The Hired Gun" recalls the kind of westerns that Randolph Scott made with director Budd Boetticher at about the same time. Director Ray Nazarro doesn't squander a second in this concise sagebrusher.