21 June 2004 | bsmith5552
Above Average Murphy Western!
"No Name On the Bullet" marks a role reversal for star Audie Murphy. Normally the soft spoken hero, this time out he is a cold blooded hired killer with little or no redeeming qualities.
John Gant (Murphy) a hired killer, rides into town one day and is soon recognized by the towns people. His modus operandi has preceded him. It seems that he rides into a town, checks into a hotel and then just sits around for days taking stock of the situation and sizing up his next victim, who is known only to him. He then goads his victim into a fight and shoots him down in self defence.
With Gant's arrival several townsfolk begin to get nervous, each believing that they are his intended victim. It seems many of the good citizens have skeletons in their respective closets. Is it the respected town doctor, Luke Canfield (Charles Drake), his father Asa the blacksmith (R. G. Armstrong), gambler Reeger (Simon Scott), "respected businessmen" Stricker (Karl Swenson) and Pierce (Whit Bissell), miner Ben Chafee (John Alderson) or Lou Fraden (Warren Stevens), who has run off with another man's wife (Virginia Grey)?
Well, each begins to think that the other is trying to have him/her killed and they begin to fight among themselves. Only the sheriff (Willis Bouchey) has the courage to stand up to Gant, but Gant shoots his gun hand in a showdown. Through it all Dr. Canfield along with his fiance Anne Benson (Joan Evans) and her terminally ill and crippled father, retired Judge Benson (Edgar Stehlt) try to make sense of it all. Canfield comes to earn Gant's respect for his courage in trying to prevent any violence. The suspense builds, some die until we learn that Gant's victim is........
Normally when you watch an Audie Murphy western, you would expect him to abandon his intended victim and ride away. Not so here. The cold and calculated manner in which he goads his victim into a fight leaves no question that Gant is all bad. Murphy pulls it off. He was gradually becoming a better actor with each film. His performance as Gant is downright chilling. He would follow that up with another good performance in "Unforgiven" a big budget western with Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn the following year.
Universal always populated the Murphy westerns with a cast of seasoned veterans. This film is no exception. Drake appeared in many of Murphy's films on both sides of the law. He gets to be the hero in this one. Stevens as the gutless wife stealer stands out as does Grey as his distraught wife who sees that she has made a big mistake. The ever reliable Bouchey is excellent as the sheriff who is powerless to stop Gant. Stehlt is good as the terminally ill judge and Evans makes an attractive heroine. In fact, there's not a single weakness in the entire cast. Sharp eyed western lovers will spot Bob Steele (mostly from the back) in the card playing sequence.