For, April 10, 2015

“The Quiet Gun” (1957, b/w) is a low-budget programmer, an independently produced Western distributed by 20th Century Fox, and which manages to rise above its second-tier roots by virtue of a well-written script with a few unexpected plot twists and top-notch performances by its B-level cast.

Fans of vintage TV will know Forrest Tucker for his role in “F Troop,” but he was a sterling character actor in movies long before that, often playing tough guys.

Here, Tucker has the lead role as sheriff of a small Old West town, and he performs in an understated manner that perfectly matches the material.

Lee Van Cleef co-stars in a juicy part as a hired gun that clashes with Tucker, the sheriff’s first clue that something unsavory is afoot locally, although he is unable to prevent a subsequent tragedy


Lee Van Cleef, left (in black, natch), and Forrest Tucker, center, 'The Quiet Gun'

This leads to his standing up to the town in a manner that echoes “High Noon” (1952) in a story that isn’t afraid to address racism, vigilante justice and corrupt politics — all in a scant but snappy 77-minute running time.

And the location photography here is perfectly framed to take advantage of the surroundings in a vivid widescreen process filmed in gorgeous black and white.

Regular readers know that I love movies about the Old West, and I’ve seen an awful lot that are mediocre, routine or downright terrible, and which look like 50 other similar films.

So it’s a real treat to stumble onto one I’d never seen and to find it thoroughly engrossing.


Also here are two underrated but well-cast actresses, Mara Corday and Kathleen Crowley, along with Jim Davis, a veteran character actor who performed in countless films and TV shows (many, if not most, of them, Westerns), and would gain fame at the end of his career as the Ewing patriarch on “Dallas” in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

“The Quiet Gun” has never been on home video until now, with a new release from Olive Films on DVD and Blu-ray.