20 February 2008 | drystyx
outstanding movie which requires more thought than you may think
"Gunman's Walk" is not only outstanding on the entertainment level, it also presents what could be clichéd material in a superbly directed and written comment on many issues. The story is an action Western first. Van Heflin, easily one of the greatest of all Western actors, plays a rugged Western hero of the old pioneer days, who participated in many wars against the Native American. Unlike the more sugar coated stories of many Westerns, he is not forgiving of his enemy, and his character is still much the same man when he enters a new era. Heflin's character is now a big man in his territory, respected and feared by all. Heflin gives this character an incredible likability, which in retrospect, makes him even scarier. It is easy to compare this man with Anthony Quinn in "Last Train to Gun Hill", another impressive performance by another great actor. Except this man is much friendlier and less menacing, yet he commands the respect for his abilities with guns, fists, and bravery. Heflin now has a big ranch and two sons. The older one, Tab Hunter, wants to be the big hero his father was, but lives in an era when the Native American is not at war with them. In fact, Ed Platt plays an Indian agent who tries to protect the native population from Hunter's outbursts, to no avail. The younger son, James Darren, is perfectly cast as the dove of the family, who abhors violence. To make matters worse, he is attracted to a beautiful Native American girl, which puts him as the one bearing the brunt of suffering in the middle from both sides. Heflin is going along with the times, but not by conventional means. he hangs on to his valor by recalling his feats in the past. Hunter constantly hears the exploits with other older men in the saloon, speaking as if they were in Floyd's Mayberry RFD barber shop. Exploits against the native Americans that aren't allowed any more, but Hunter wants to have such stories told about him some day. Heflin's character hasn't moved with the times. He simply laughs at them. He raises his sons to be fighters and the end result is that the oldest son steps way over any civilized line. The climax is not exactly hidden. We know that Heflin must confront himself, and he does this by confronting his sons. One he admires, and the other he disowns midway through the movie. By the end, he realizes his mistake. But all through the movie, characters remind us that Hunter isn't the one who caused it all. It is actually Heflin. Yet Heflin's performance is so great that instead of seeing him for the evil man he is, we pity him, and don't blame him. Much like the crafty Fred March in "Hombre", one of the evilest men in Westerns, yet able to snake oil his way through it. Heflin's attitude and character is in the oldest son, and he was responsible. In the end, Heflin admits this, and we forgive him at first, when we see him break down. However, this movie requires much thought. It gives a very frightening picture of the truth about prejudice, and about the evil that is allowed to pass on through cultures and generations, and the way it is done. It is a movie we should watch and learn from, and it is done in a very sneaky way. A must see movie.