The Gunfight at Dodge City (1959)

Approved   |    |  Western

The Gunfight at Dodge City (1959) Poster

After his brother the sheriff is murdered, Bat Masterson is elected to the job and is determined to find the killer and make Dodge City safe.


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29 January 2011 | hitchcockthelegend
| It's not enough just to say no to anyone who is threatening you.
The Gunfight at Dodge City is directed by Joseph M.Newman (This Island Earth/Fort Massacre) and jointly written by Martin Goldsmith and Daniel B. Ullman. It stars Joel McCrea, Julie Adams, John McIntire, Nancy Gates, Richard Anderson, Don Haggerty and James Westerfield. Hans J. Salter scores the music and Carl Guthrie is the cinematographer, with the production being in CinemaScope with colour by DeLuxe. Primary location shoot is Melody Ranch, Newhall, California, USA.

McCrea stars as Bat Masterson, we find him originally in Hays City, Kansas, where he has set up shop, but after killing a man in self defence he heads to Dodge City to stay with his brother, Ed (Harry Lauter), who is the City Marshall. But upon arriving he finds that Dodge City is not a nice place, beset with lawlessness and run by corrupt sheriff Jim Reagan (Haggerty). After befriending the town doctor, Sam Tremaine (McIntire), and meeting Ed's fiancée Pauline (Adams), Bat buys a half share in the ailing Lady Gay Saloon run by Lily (Gates), herself struggling because of Reagan's interference. Bat sets about earning an honest living, but sheriff Reagan has no intention of letting either of the Masterson's flourish in Dodge: and just why is Dave Rudabaugh (Anderson) in town?

Sometimes referred to as The Bat Masterson Story, The Gunfight at Dodge City is not a biography of the frontier lawman who once worked alongside Wyatt Earp. It does have some semblance of facts inked into the narrative, but ultimately view it as light telling of Bat Masterson's time in Dodge City. Running at just 81 minutes long, Newman's film has just enough character development, drama and period detail to sustain interest for that length of time. There's no attempt at histrionics or psychological depth, or even a message in the offering. This is a very stream-lined Western dealing in familiar B Western themes. But what it lacks in originality it makes up for with its all round production values.

Although the CinemaScope is not used to the full (not enough exterior panoramas here, sadly), the film boasts some fine performances, wonderful colour lensing (night time shots are gorgeous) and that under valued asset of the Western, costuming (check out Lily's purple frock). McCrea obviously doesn't have the iconography that Randy Scott, James Stewart and The Duke have, but he quite often cuts an imposing, straight backed figure of note. Such as he does here, giving Masterson a rugged noble elegance in the process. Adams is beautiful and proves adept during the more tender moments and Gates, likewise, is hugely effective in portraying the nagging pangs of yearning. McIntire is nearly always good value, especially in official roles, and he adds a touch of quality here as the Doc who likes a drink and stoically stands by Bat's side when he needs support. Haggerty is a touch weak, not really exuding menace, but that's offset quite some by Anderson's suspicious and sneaky portrayal of Rudabaugh.

All told it's just a real safe B Western with good production value into the bargain. 7/10

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