BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • May 1st, 2013 •

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Glenn Ford liked making Westerns more than the other genres in which he appeared. And he’s uniformly good in them. But he never teamed up with a director who would lend a sense of unity to his body of Western work. John Wayne had Ford and Hawks (13). Jimmy Stewart had Anthony Mann (5). Randolph Scott had Budd Boetticher (7). Glenn Ford made three of his Westerns with Delmer Daves, but that’s as close as he came to having a director/actor partnership.

And yet he’s sturdy, grim and believable in all of them. HEAVEN WITH A GUN came out in ’69, and it’s an odd concept with a typical frontier story spun around it. Gunfighter Jim Killian (Ford) comes to town to open a mission in which he preaches God’s word, and backs it up with lead. The local saloon owner/madame is played by Carolyn Jones, who Ford knew back when, and tells her she still looks good…which she doesn’t, but it’s still nice to see her.

David Carradine and Barbara Hershey – soon to be living together off screen, appear respectively as a rancher bully and a half breed who gloms on to Ford after he takes the time to bury her Indian father who was hung by Carradine and his ilk. Both of them are good in their stereotyped roles.

John Anderson is sturdy as Asa Beck, the Cattleman usurper, and Noah Beery Jr. has a scene on horseback where he delivers his lines in a John Wayne-light impression. It’s a good cast, and they all deliver. Indeed, Angelique Pettyjohn delivers some pleasant nudity as one of the town whores, and ’69 was fairly early for this kind of thing in a family film, so I’m trying to remember if it was in the release print, or if this was a somewhat more complete negative WB used, possibly a foreign cut. Ms. Pettyjohn lucked out with a memorable role in a Star Trek TV episode, and was able to trade in hard core gigs for SciFi convention appearances.

Director Lee Katzin, mainly a TV guy, and one who helmed a number of Western episodics, nonetheless doesn’t feel at home in the Western theatrical genre, and the first act in particular is unwieldy, and poorly edited to boot. Eventually the narrative takes hold and the directorial flaws become less noticeable. Scribe Richard Carr, also mainly a TV denizen, has delivered a script with fully-developed scenes, and deserved to see them realized better. Fred Koenekamp’s cinematography never reaches for aesthetic goals, yet it serves the story adequately. When the opportunity presented itself he could on occasion coax a beautiful looking film out of his camera, such as PAPILLON. He also shot BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.

The Archive print is 2:35.1 and looks unsullied by time. The Metrocolors have held up well, something the process never did on 16 & 35 mm. prints. I remember them turning pink faster than other Eastman processes, and an ugly pink at that.

The tag line on the Box cover reads: “Jim Killian Killed like an artist. This is the story of his masterpiece.” I saw the film last night, and I have no idea what that means. Moreover, there never occurs within the screenplay any explanation as to why Killian decided to become a minister. Very odd indeed.

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