It was in 2004 that I watched this film starring Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn. Although the first Western I watched was ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’, it is definitely not my favorite. I remember watching Spartacus in 2003 and I don’t have to say that it is Kirk Douglas’ best performance ever. Last Train from Gun Hill intimidated me because it was not only the actors that made the film great but the story.
Marshal Matt Morgan (Kirk Douglas) reaches a town named Gun Hill for taking into custody Rick Belden, for raping and murdering his wife. Rick Belden is the son of a cattle baron and an influential man called Craig Belden (Anthony Quinn). Craig is sympathetic over the plight of Marshal Morgan but his fatherly affections force him to refuse handing over his son to the law. Marshal Morgan is left with no choice other than to capture Rick and take him away by the 9.00 pm train, the last one to leave from Gun Hill. He manages to capture Rick Belden but gets surrounded by Craig Belden, his men and a town that supports the Belden family. The rest is just thrilling moments that would keep you on the edge of the seat…
The film is directed by John Sturges. The story is by Les Crutchfield and screenplay by James Poe.
Kirk Douglas’ role starts out as a man who enjoys his life but transforms soon into someone plunged into grief in the most shocking way. He, as a man vowed to protect the law, has to face opposition from every quarter to do just that. Anthony Quinn’s performance is probably the one that deserves much more praise than that of Douglas’. His heart goes out to his friends’ plight but soon that emotion gets overshadowed by his responsibility to his son. Law and justice become something that can be negotiated and very soon he finds himself on the wrong side of everything.
I love the part where Marshal Morgan tells Rick Belden how he should feel when facing the gallows.
‘I know an old man who’d like to kill you, Belden; the Indian way. Slow. That’s how I’m gonna do it. Slow. But, the White man’s way. First you’ll stand trial. That takes a fair amount of time, and you’ll do a lot of sweating! Then, they’ll sentence you. I never seen a man who didn’t get sick to his stomach when he heard the kind of sentence you’ll draw. After that you’ll sit in a cell and wait, may be for months, thinking how that rope will feel around your neck. Then they’ll come around, some cold morning, just before sun-up. They’ll tie your arms behind you. You’ll start blubbering, kicking, yelling for help. But it won’t do you any good. They’ll drag you out in the yard, heave you up on that platform, fix that rope around your neck and leave you out there all alone with a big black hood over your eyes. You know the last sound you hear? Kind of a thump when they kick the trapdoor catch – and down you go. You’’ hit the end of that rope like a sack of potatoes, all dead weight. It’ll be white hot around your neck and your Adam’s Apple will turn to mush. You will fight for breath but you haven’t got any breath. Your brain will begin to boil. You’ll scream and holler! But nobody’ll hear you. You’’ hear it. But nobody else. Finally, You’re just swinging there – all alone and dead!’
In my opinion this is the best scene in the movie and something that Douglas has always excelled; delivering long dialogues with raw emotion.
Folks, watch it for pure performances and a gripping story. People who have already watched it, well, watch it again.
- Kirk Douglas’s Memoir Recalls “Spartacus” and Breaking Hollywood’s Blacklist (kindlepost.com)
- East / West remakes … a film tradition … (myfavoritewesterns.com)
- Stanley Kubrick (literaryliaisons.wordpress.com)
- Spartacus (myoldaddiction2.wordpress.com)