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The Gunfighter Reviews

An arresting, superbly produced and downbeat Western photographed in stark black and white, THE GUNFIGHTER presents an unglorified view of the Old West as a grim, dirty and decidedly desperate place. Peck stars as an alienated gunfighter who's feeling his age and beginning to look back more often than forward. Entering a saloon one night, he finds that his notorious reputation has preceded him. Loud-mouthed punk Jaeckel picks a fight with him, calling Peck names. Peck tries to beg off, asking anyone in the bar to talk the brash and foolish youth out of going for his gun. But Jaeckel reaches and Peck beats him, shooting and killing the aspiring gunslinger. After being informed that despite justification in defending himself, it won't matter to Jaeckel's three older brothers, the seasoned gunfighter leaves hastily and moves on to his original destination, taking a room in a nearby town where he hopes to be reunited with his young son. Meanwhile, Jaeckel's bloodthirsty siblings follow close behind. Generally tough and humorless, THE GUNFIGHTER is a grim portrait of a man whose time and historical role have run out, and he knows it. Peck is dazzling as the doomed and haunted gunfighter, a man desperately trying to escape his own past and identity, but knowing all along that hope is false and that there is only a bullet in his future. Henry King's direction is outstanding, keeping the action tautly drawn, while Arthur Miller's high-contrast cinematography is highly suggestive as it documents Peck's inexorable movement toward death. Preceding HIGH NOON by two years, THE GUNFIGHTER was a seminal film in the western's movement away from action cliches toward more psychological depth.