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Death of a Gunfighter Reviews

The strange hybrid of directing styles evidenced in DEATH OF A GUNFIGHTER is the only aspect of this routine western that holds any interest. The production began under the guidance of director Robert Totten, but halfway through the shoot, he was fired at the behest of star Widmark. Don Siegel replaced Totten and finished the second half of the film in nine days. The result is a strange mix of Totten's plodding style and Siegel's rapid, to-the-point approach. The contrast between the directors' filmmaking techniques is evident throughout the film; because Totten didn't shoot in sequence, Siegel had to fill in the blanks. Widmark plays a gunslinger-turned-sheriff, an old-fashioned lawman. The town politicos are courting Eastern investors and fear that Widmark's uncouth style will scare off the money-men, so they band together to oust the sheriff. When Widmark refuses to be retired, the town council sees no solution but to bump him off. Siegel develops some interesting themes that he would later explore in John Wayne's outstanding final film, THE SHOOTIST (1976). Horne is wasted as Widmark's mistress, though she does sing "Sweet Apple Wine."