A cattle rustler clad in black leather (Lee Van Cleef, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) intends to run a stolen herd to Hell’s Canyon. But first he must pass through Rock River, a town plagued by prejudice and corruption, but presided over by the tough but fair Sheriff Brandon (Forrest Tucker, TV’s F Troop). When a man (Jim Davis) is lynched so that his ranch can be taken, Brandon faces down not only the cattle thief but his own townspeople, in a tireless effort to uphold the law. In the tradition of High Noon, The Quiet Gun is a tightly woven Western that exposes the hypocrisy of the morally pious, and valorizes those individuals who dare to stand up against injustice.
Genre pictures often get a bum rap for being shallow or devoid of any kind of subtext. I would assert that the people who suggest horror films, sci-fi adventures, or even westerns have little to offer in an allegorical sense are either A: not paying attention, or B: just don’t know a good movie when one it projected in front of their faces. During the 1950s, cinemas were dominated by cheap B-Movie level westerns, alien invasion flicks, and monster movies. While these films might have been the popular fare of the day, they certainly weren’t without strong topical content. To this point, William Claxton’s ‘The Quiet Gun’ has a lot to say and uses the backdrop of a small western frontier town to great effect.
Sheriff Carl Brandon, a strong Forrest Tucker, keeps the peace of his tiny, quiet town. Things go from nice and easy to rough and dangerous with the arrival of cattle rustler Doug Sadler, a menacing Lee Van Cleef. After breaking up an escalating situation involving the town’s simpleton Sampson, Hank Worden, Sheriff Brandon is beset by high and mighty townsfolk who demand he stand up for law and order. It seems local rancher Ralph Carpenter, Jim Davis, has taken up with a young indian woman, Mara Corday, while technically still being married on paper - even though he’s long been estranged from his wife.
While Sheriff Brandon does his best to quell any qualms of the local decency committees, others aren’t as content and are willing to do away with any law and take matters in their own hands. When Ralph kills a man in self defense, Sheriff Brandon is powerless to stop a lynch mob from committing murder in the name up upholding decency standards. After being knocked unconscious in the process, Sheriff Brandon must stand up to criminals and innocent men alike to bring the mob to justice while he pieces together the puzzle in front of him, and identifies the true lawless instigator of this seemingly moral crusade.
Given the year this film was released, 1957, it isn’t a stretch to see the lines this little parable aims to draw. With the Civil Rights movement building steam, the idea of interracial relationships was certainly a taboo to many. This film rests on the notion that people believed they were above the law and were justifiable in their heinous actions - even when the law came knocking on their door searching for the true criminals. When people begin to apply opinion without any fact with “moral standards” to backup their prejudices, the consequences can be catastrophic. A witch hunt, no matter how seemingly morally guided, is still a witch hunt.
While tackling heavy subtext, ‘The Quiet Gun’ smartly doesn’t overplay its hand. It’s messaging is there for those willing to look deep enough, but for those who want their entertainment light and easy, this is a story that is ultimately about a man willing to do anything, even sacrifice his life to uphold the law. Playing in the vein of classic westerns like ‘High Noon’ and later in similar effect with ‘Rio Bravo,’ Sheriff Brandon is a man who could easily catch a bullet in the back at any time by anyone and must employ clever methods in order to not only save his own hide, but ensure justice is carried out.
There is a lot to admire with this little film. The story is rich and interesting and it features a fantastic cast that bring their all to the show. From Forrest Tucker’s besieged Sheriff Brandon to Kathleen Crowley as Teresa Carpenter to Lee Van Cleef’s chilling Sadler, everyone plays their part just right so as to actually feel apart of a bigger stage and not attempt to outshine anyone else, or the film as a whole. Adapted from the Lauran Paine novel ‘Law Man,’ writers Eric Norden and Earle Lyon do a great job of taking contemporary themes and weaving them into the story and with the steady direction by William Claxton, this brisk 77 minute movie moves swift and sure, and is never a dull moment. I love discovering a good western and ‘The Quiet Gun’ turned out to be a fantastic find - one well worth the time and effort to discover for yourself.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
‘The Quiet Gun’ arrives on Blu-ray from Olive Films on a BD25 disc. Housed in a standard Blu-ray case, the disc opens straight to the main menu of a static image that replicates the cover artwork.
‘The Quiet Gun’ gets a rather impressive 1080p 2.35:1 HD transfer for a lesser known late 50s western. The print is in decent shape, however small flecks and little scratches pop up here and there throughout the film. Occasional smearing on the print crops in, but the damage isn’t so intrusive as to prevent you from enjoying the beautiful black and white photography. Film grain is nicely maintained while not so strong as to make the image look like it was being attacked by insects. Detail levels are for the most part very strong with little to no banding or any other compression artifacts present. This is a particularly bright looking film however, black levels and shadows are strong and wonderfully inky suggesting that there wasn’t any type of contrast boosting in play. For a film of near 60 years, this is a very pleasing HD transfer for ‘The Quiet Gun.’
‘The Quiet Gun’ gets a nicely robust English DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. From the opening shot of Lee Van Cleef riding into town as townsfolk go about their business, imaging is fantastic as you get the clap of hoofs on dirt, the clanging of a hammer, and other layered background sounds. The fantastic score by Paul Dunlap is given plenty of room to fill the quieter scenes while not overpowering the mix giving to some pleasing audio levels that stick pretty close to the midranges. Dialogue never has to fight to be heard and things feel natural and realistic. The sharp eared listener will probably detect a constant, but low hissing sound throughout. It was most noticeable during the shootout on the rocks towards the films midpoint, but it is never so loud or noticeable to be problematic as this track is free of any cracks, pops, or audio breaks.
No extra features are present.
With so many movies that have been made over the years, it’s often very difficult to keep up, let alone give a film made nearly 60 years ago a chance. I’m glad I got a chance to see ‘The Quiet Gun.’ While I was a horror and sci-fi film nut growing up, I also grew up in a house that loved its westerns. I’m glad I’m now going to be able to contribute this little gem to the conversation and show it to friends and family. Devoid of extras, ‘The Quiet Gun’ is a great movie with a solid story, a great cast and is given the benefit of a strong and striking HD transfer with a robust audio track from Olive Films making it an easy title to recommend for the movie alone.