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Paramount Studios presents
Last Train from Gun Hill (1959)

"I've got two warrants and I'm gonna serve them. I'm leaving town with two men, and the long view is this: don't try to stop me."
- Matt Morgan (Kirk Douglas)

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: November 09, 2004

Stars: Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, Carolyn Jones
Other Stars: Earl Holliman, Bing Russell, Val Avery, Brad Dexter, Ziva Rodann, Walter Sande, Brian G. Hutton
Director: John Sturges

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence, off-screen rape)
Run Time: 01h:34m:13s
Release Date: November 09, 2004
UPC: 097363769248
Genre: western

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A AB+C+ D-

DVD Review

Unless they've had John Wayne or Clint Eastwood's names attached, I've never really been a big fan of westerns. At the risk of offending those who hold such movies as High Noon in high regard, I fell asleep long before the clock struck 12, I don't really have the desire to see Shane, and the thought of seeing Henry Fonda playing a mean S.O.B. in Once Upon a Time in the West makes me a little queasy (after all, he was Mister Roberts, you know, and I hate to have that image of the quintessential good guy in movies like that and The Grapes of Wrath sullied).

However, the title intrigued me: Last Train from Gun Hill. Sounds almost like a Johnny Cash song. Stars? Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn, two of my favorites. Combined with John "The Great Escape" Sturges calling the shots, even the end result of a film a third that good would be worth the time.

So, what started as a 90-minute chore turned into one of the most memorable Sunday afternoons I've had in a long time.

Ol' dimple-chinned Douglas dons an unbuttoned vest and the title of Marshall as Matt Morgan, a law man with a soft side, the kind of guy who relives past adventures in watered-down versions for the young'uns congregating around outside. While in the midst of a typical re-enactment, his young son, Petey, rides into town—and it hasn't been a pleasant afternoon. Eyes welling with tears, its apparent that something terrible, perhaps tragic, has transpired. Moments later, Matt's worst fears are realized as he cradles the lifeless body of his wife.

Earlier, while traveling by wagon, Petey and mom Catherine (Ziva Rodann) were accosted by women-starved cowpokes. Not taking the crack of a whip very well, the men retaliated by raping her, and leaving Matt's beautiful Indian wife to die. After the initial shock, he finds a saddle nearby with initials that ring a bell: C.B.

Some years before, Craig Belden (Anthony Quinn) and Morgan were joined at the hip, closer than brothers, especially since C.B. saved his hide once. But why would his best friend do something horrendous like this? Granted, things have changed, with Belden's practical ownership of the nearby town of Gun Hill. Still, avenging is on Matt's mind no matter what the circumstances. But before the fateful reunion, Belden notices something different about young son Rick (Earl Holliman)—a facial mark just a little deeper than the accidental nick of a straight razor while shaving. It doesn't take long for father to put the pieces together, and even less time for Morgan. As any law abiding marshall would be, Morgan's adamant about taking Rick and accomplice Lee Smithers (Brian G. Hutton) into custody and getting on the last train heading out of town—but not if Belden has anything to do about it. Before anyone can say "Draw!" Belden has pretty much the whole adult male population of Gun Hill cocking their rifles and pistols with Morgan as their target.

An exciting, taut, tension-filled tale that wastes no time in grabbing your attention and emotions, Last Train from Gun Hill boasts terrific performances from the successful duo of 1956's Lust for Life, Douglas and Quinn, two of Hollywood's treasures long noted for their intensity. Ironically, they both tone it down a notch or two, only adding to this gem's effectiveness. Future Police Woman good guy Earl Holliman is equally impressive in an against-type role and the versatile character actress Carolyn Jones sparkles as a worldly miss who becomes Morgan's ally. Sturge's excellent direction, a memorable score from Dimitri Tiomkin (who scored many great westerns) and evocative photography from Charles Lang, Jr. are additional key ingredients to a film that deserves to be ranked amidst genre classics like Rio Bravo and Unforgiven.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Though the Technicolor is occasionally muted and a few scenes appear slightly wanting in consistent black levels, this is a mostly impressive catalog transfer. Taken from a terrific source print, only a few fleeting specks along the way keep this from A-level kudos, but it's a very strong B.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish (Dolby Digital)yes

Audio Transfer Review: Tiomkin's terrific scoring comes across very tinny and almost devoid of low end, a big detriment in an otherwise routine and decent sounding soundtrack as far as dialogue. Thank goodness for equalization functions because the overt highs of the incidental musical cues are unfortunately distracting without adjustment.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: It's a Paramount catalog title. You know the routine.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Thanks to the wonders of vault purging, films like Last Train from Gun Hill gain exposure to new audiences who get the thrill of discovering near-forgotten gems that come close to equaling the quality of better known films in their genre. An absolutely thrilling, edge-of-your-seat tale possessed of great storytelling (and some unlikely humor at times) along with terrific performances by Douglas, Quinn, and Jones, it's a pleasant surprise for newcomers; those who've known all along will not want to waste anytime in getting reacquainted, thanks to a nifty transfer. Highly recommended.

Don't know if it's because of all the gunsmoke in the air, but maybe I will check out Shane after all.


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